The United States Army prides itself on providing the best trained and prepared forces needed to accomplish any mission. During last month’s Unified Endeavor 12-1 exercise the Mission Command Training Program (MCTP) put maximum effort into preparing several headquarters for duty in Afghanistan.
MCTP, the U.S. Army’s only deployable training center, sent operations groups to Fort Riley, Kan., Fort Knox, Ky. and Germany. Detachment 1 of the USAF 505th Command and Control Wing and many members of the MCTP Headquarters also joined the exercise to serve as Observer/Trainers (O/Ts).
The exercise, which ran from January 16 through February 3rd, employed simulation and role-players to provide deploying units with realistic scenarios. How the units react to scenarios is evaluated during training. The exercise provided an opportunity for the headquarters staffs (often called the “training audience”) to work with each other and to work with other staffs at higher and lower echelons.
The exercise also saw the involvement of Soldiers from V Corps, 3rd Infantry Division, 1st Cavalry Division and 101st Airborne Division in a variety of roles. Soldiers from Afghanistan, Germany, United Kingdom, France and Poland participated as well, representing various elements operating in Afghanistan and selective staff. Finally, contractors and Department of Defense civilians provided the services and expertise needed to make sure the exercise ran smoothly.
The 1st Infantry Division, known by the nickname “the Big Red One,” participated from its home station at Fort Riley. Having completed a tour in Iraq last year, ithe division is preparing to assume the duties of Regional Command-East, an area in Afghanistan which includes a long stretch of the Pakistan border. Maj. Gen. William C. Mayville commanded the 1st Infantry Division and served as joint commander of RC-East.
MCTP’s Operations Group Delta took charge of the initial phases of The Big Red One’s part in the exercise. Later, service members of the Joint Warfighting Center, based out of Suffolk, Va., provided oversight as well.
The unmistakable theme of UE 12-1 was “Transition,” placing the responsibility for security on the Afghan forces created for that purpose. Operations Group Delta worked within this theme, providing O/Ts to provide guidance on the best way to optimize the Afghans for success.
In order to give the Big Red One the most up-to-date information on current conditions in Afghanistan and “best practices” for Operation Enduring Freedom many key U.S. members of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) were brought in to share their experiences. MCTP Soldiers also benefited from this sharing of information. Following the exercise they returned to Afghanistan where many will still be serving when 1st ID assumes the mission there.
Also located at Fort Riley, the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade was part of UE 12-1 as well. The 201st BfSB (“Gryphons”) normally stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wa., was initially to train on intelligence collection duties but prior to the UE 12-1 execution they were designated to be a “battlespace owner,” responsible for operations in a specific area within Afghanistan. Additional ground units were provided for this mission.
Operations Group Foxtrot, which provides “specialty” brigade training, conducted this portion of the exercise for MCTP. Foxtrot O/Ts monitored the activity of the brigade staff and provided guidance to members as needed.
Between the 1st Infantry Division and 201st BfSB the Fort Riley portion of the exercise was the largest command post exercise held at the post since 2006.
Concurrent with the exercise at Fort Riley Operations Group Sierra was at Fort Knox, Ky., training the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command and the 1st Sustainment Brigade during Unified Endeavor 12-1. Sierra specializes in training logistics elements which are a vital part to any military success. Operations Group Charlie also trained the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based in Europe, as part of the same exercise.
The rarely-heralded Operations Group COE (Contemporary Operating Environment) worked behind the scenes throughout Unified Endeavor, providing the simulations necessary for the exercise to take place. COE simulated the interaction of the media (both print and broadcast), various Afghan civilian roles and subject-matter experts, all woven together into a credible and challenging exercise.
Elements of COE were present from Camp Pendleton Cal. to the NATO Joint Forces Training Center in Bydgoszcz, Poland to provide the necessary common picture for all units, U.S. and NATO, to operate within.
Col. John Valledor, Chief of Operations Group COE, was satisfied with the performance of the Department of the Army civilians, Soldiers and contractors in his unit, believing that they succeeded in their mission of “operationalizing the division commander’s objectives into meaningful exercise storylines.” The real test of success will come after the units reach Afghanistan. “The ultimate measure of success is Soldiers who deploy in-theater and are comfortable in executing missions, roles and functions.”
Another element of MCTP which saw considerable employment during Unified Endeavor 12-1 was the use of Senior Mentors. These are retired general officers who are now Department of Defense employees. They provide senior commanders within the exercise audience the benefit of their own experiences as commanders of U.S. Army brigades, divisions and corps. Retired general officers Lt. Gen. Robert Clark, Lt. Gen. Thomas Miller, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski and Brig. Gen. Randy Anderson all participated in various locations in support of UE 12-1.
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Clark, who served as the Senior Mentor for the 1st Infantry Division, stated that from his perspective the division’s preparations prior to UE 12-1 served to make the exercise work more smoothly. The effort the division put into planning for contingency operations was effort well spent. “It made for an easier learning curve,” said Clark.
When the exercise concluded on Friday it was marked by an After-Action Review (AAR) at Fort Riley attended by Gen. Raymond Odierno, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. Gen. Odierno expressed confidence in the ability of the 1st Infantry Division to successfully complete its upcoming mission.
“It’s clear to me from what I’ve seen this week that they’ll continue to do an incredible job as they prepare to deploy to Afghanistan,” said Odierno.
Lt. Col. James D. Crabtree and Maj. Lee Peters, MCTP Public Affairs