Magazine article National Defense

Joint-Service Needs Shape Marine Training Programs

Magazine article National Defense

Joint-Service Needs Shape Marine Training Programs

Article excerpt

The Marine Corps is taking steps to align its training programs with joint requirements, officials said. Under the Defense Department's umbrella project called the Joint National Training Capability, the Marines are, for the tint time, investing in technologies such as range instrumentation, to ensure they can participate in JNTC training events.

According to Col. Walter Augustin, the head of Marine Corps training systems command in Orlando, Fla., JNTC will guide future procurements of training equipment.

"Specifically, we are focusing on the joint interoperability and networking capabilities of our training systems to try to remove the seams between our live, virtual and constructive training efforts," he told National Defense.

The instrumentation of the 29 Palms live-fire training range in California is a first for the service. Twenty-nine Palms was instrumented as part of the first JNTC exercise held in late January.

The exercise focused on joint close air support and took place mainly on the Western Range with Marine forces on the ground at 29 Palms and Army forces at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps assets provided the close air support. (See related story, p. 32)

Marines "never knew how to keep track of the folks on the battlefield because they didn't need to know," said Marine Corps Navy Capt. Howard Thorp, the director of the Joint Management Office for JNTC. "We are turning the corner with instrumentation at 29 Palms."

The instrumentation consists of sensor pods used to keep track of both ground and air forces. JFCOM installed pods on all aircraft at 29 Palms, which in turn were being monitored by the Air Force Air Warrior Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Additionally, 175 ground vehicles had instrumentation pods. "We are tracking so that we know where groups or formations are at all times," Thorp said. For the dismounted soldiers, out of 20, only one may be carrying a pod. "That is the first step where we are trying to track all the blue forces."

JFCOM was responsible for funding the instrumentation, which cost the command $500,000. While 29 Palms is the first instrumented Marine range, JFCOM is looking at outfitting another 17 bases, according to Thorp. The Marine Corps also has received $48.5 million for the instrumentation of 29 Palms, according to Augustin, who said the Corps was expecting to budget for the instrumentation at all training ranges.

The first JNTC exercise alone cost JFCOM $20 million. "JNTC is spending money to develop procedures, tactical tasks instrumentation that will be used 10-20 times over, so the initial cost of doing something is not the same cost as it would be to have a redundant capability," Thorp said. "That money is going to pay for the terrain data bases, for instrumentation that we are going to use over and over again."

He said the cost of exercises over the course of the years is going to go down, "but you have to put the initial R&D money, [and] intellectual strength," he said.

Augustin said Marine programs will continue to focus on joint training. Examples are the CACC-TUS program--the Combined Arms Command and Control Training Upgrade System, the Deployable Virtual Training Environment, the Marine Air Ground Task Force tactical warfare simulation and enabling technologies for JNTC.

CACCTUS is an upgrade for the Combined Arms Staff Trainer and provides command and control integration and fire support coordination training for Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) staff up to Marine Expeditionary Brigade level. It provides two- and three-dimensional visualization of the battle space.

DVTE is a prototype system that addresses training at the individual, team and unit levels. It consists of two parts--the combined arms network and the infantry tool kit. It is composed of commercial technology and is hosted on a self-contained network of configurable laptop computers. …

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