CTC’s role is to deliver advanced collective combat training to high readiness forces. A trend we are consistently observing is that the HQs and Units aren’t prepared to the level we think they could be for this advanced collective combat training. As a result, much of the rotation is spent correcting baseline practices that could, and should have been resolved in home station preparatory training. We’re talking range cards, vehicle husbandry, how to develop a plan to plan, wargaming COA and effective battle tracking, when we should be using the tried and tested CTC immersion and feedback methodology to improve team performances by permitting Commanders to execute their mission with the least possible constraints. In CTC exercises, events are allowed to move along their natural course, enabling Commanders at all levels to realise the full consequences of their decisions. We should use the rotation to practice and discuss the critical functions required in advanced warfighting, like the synchronisation of effects, deception and the acceptance of calculated risk to get inside the OPFOR’s OODA loop and ‘win’, to name a few.
First and foremost, I would like to dispel a myth…a CTC rotation is not about evaluation or assessment. That is a chain of command responsibility and while a Warfighter, MRE or CPX may provide objective evidence to the chain of command, we don’t assess or certify. At CTC our goal is performance improvement. We do this through partnering with the unit undertaking the training early – seeking focal areas for development and to focus our observation and instrumentation effect. However, to the point of this short paper, we seek to present options ‘left of bang’ that facilitate training units getting after home station training to maximise the opportunity presented by a CTC rotation.
Home Station Training (HST) means many things to many people. In Oct 2020, CTC, alongside AHQ, FORCOMD and CASG, is supporting a trial aimed at the progression of training from ATL 2-5. Importantly, this activity will link the WTSS, BSC and live instrumentation to provide a mix of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality that allows CT Commanders to train as a combined arms team, to develop habitual relationships and get after baseline warfighting functions in barracks. The aim is to provide a simple, repeatable and accessible training experience, for forces from section through to CT, which will instil the combat behaviours that would previously only be achieved on a prolonged field exercise.
How do we get after Bde – BG – CT performance improvement in home station? The answer isn’t to wait until Polygon Wood or Vital Prospect. As recently demonstrated on the ‘Land Extension’ activity to Exercise Vital Prospect 20, CTC ran a 3 day CPX with no simulation support that provided an excellent training opportunity for 1 & 3 Bdes from three locations. These Bdes were able to work through a full ATO cycle with the JTF HQ (HICON) and the BGs acting as LOCON. The activity involved a deliberate planning cycle through to Bde Orders Group and ROC Drill followed by a three day execution window. This allowed the Bdes to work to the JTF battle rhythm and be presented with a number of learning challenges that provided a robust training opportunity with a relatively low overhead.
If we take the model of the land extension and step it down one level we can effectively mirror this success in HST. Firstly, we have Bde HQ as HICON, the BG HQs as the main effort for the training and finally we integrate the CT HQ as the LOCON with very little cost. This construct provides the framework to deliver and practice digital C2 planning and coordination of execution in home station locations, with low overheads. For the activity to succeed, there must be command alignment and prioritisation of the activity, within the Bde. Too often CTC observes that Bdes overbook themselves or neglect to allocate clear priority to preparation and in effect they dilute the overall output. This leads to sub-optimal training and an unconscious bias that it is too hard to train yourself. It is essential therefore to allocate and fight to protect the training time. The training value from digitally linking the Bde Comd to CT Comd in an organically run CPX, prior to scarce field training opportunities, provides invaluable repetitions of planning, command and control activities. The result of which is a Bde HQ, BG HQs and CT Comds that perform better in the field, allowing the opportunity for CTC to engage at all levels toward the endstate of advanced collective combat training.
Next step is selecting the training objectives…the CPX can’t and won’t be all things. Be realistic in what you want to achieve. As a broad suggestion focus on three things:
- People: get commanders together. This promotes mission command as it allows us to understand how we react in the CP on deployed systems in a combat setting (and away from office, mobile phone and the barracks routine). The ADF Leadership Handbook lists the six interdependent conditions needed for mission command as:
- Build a cohesive team to develop mutual trust
- Create an opportunity for shared understanding
- Provide clear commander’s intent
- Exercise disciplined initiative
- Use mission orders
- Accept calculated risk
Staff learn how their commanders like information to be presented for decision and they will find opportunities to achieve their commander’s intent and enable their subordinate call signs to be successful on the battlefield.
- Process: Bde battle rhythm, planning cycles, orders, ROC drills, battle drills, SOPs, TTPs, PACE (including method, means and procedures how to switch between the plan) and familiarisation to fight and win in a DATE environment.
- Readiness: CP set up, equipment serviceability, digital accounts enabled, RSO&I of enabling Bde LOs, manning required to Plan and Execute.
Optimally this Bde CPX can be executed over a two week period as follows:
- Week 1 (Mon – Fri):
- Bde/BG – Bde cascading / parallel planning and orders that concludes with BG orders and BG ROC drill.
- CT – CT HQ set up in the local sim centre and need to have the conditions set to execute the plan on week 2. The minimum for the CTs to execute is their mission, grouping / tasks, sync matrix and control measures. If the CT Comds have participated in the BG ROC Drill they will have this.
- Week 2 (Mon – Fri):
- BG / CT execution and the drop of a concurrent planning task.
- The Bde can execute task 1 Mon – Wed and execute a second task Thur to dilute current and future staff effort, handover from S35 to S33 and Comd oversight / prioritisation.
- Fri - AAR and pack up.
The development, lead time and selection of an appropriate scenario combined with an ability to resource the EXCON function appears to be the long pole in the tent. It is not an insurmountable obstacle and CTC has a number of Bde level scenarios that could be readily repurposed to provide the overarching framework for a Bde CPX. The Bde DCOMD could lead the EXCON and part of the Bde S2 cell work as ‘trusted insiders’ to develop and run the master events list. An OC from a Battalion Spt Coy could supervise the LOCON to ensure injects, tempo and adjudication is realistic and is providing the right stimulation for the BG HQ. This product doesn’t need to be developed from scratch – the wargame from COA-A at both Bde and BG levels, provides an excellent vehicle for getting the BLUEFOR assessment of how they see the action unfolding and can be crafted as a start point to build the MEL and injects!
The CPX might not be perfect, yet the alternative of not doing it provides zero training value. Should a Bde seek to take advantage of the home station training opportunity described, CTC is ready to assist with the planning and provide some staff during execution. We have a vested interest in Bde performance improvement. As an example, the resources we normally allocate to a Bde HQ BST, could be combined with the activity described. Successfully undertaking this activity would provide a logical stepping stone to progress to ‘advanced collective’ on Exercise Polygon Wood within the JTF wrap or a live instrumented BG Warfighter.
The opportunities presented by home station training are only limited by imagination and can be realised with a desire and will (plus command alignment) to maximise limited combat training time.