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On Training Army Formations (Split from: BP & OPP)

pbi

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No matter how many times you JCATs it, nothing can simulate what happens to a Brigade when it's lead Battle Group has fought to establish a bridgehead and one must pass the next one through.

This is a common accusation against simulation: the Brits advanced it to us to explain why they were still using live troops in the field to exercise formation HQs (a practice we hopefully stopped some time ago). It says more about the user than about the sim system.

This accusation is only true if you decide at the outset that in your simulation exercise you aren't going to present the training audience with any nasty problems. If you want to design and conduct a simex that runs like a cloth model weith no hiccups: fill your boots.

This, IMHO, is a misuse of simulation systems' great capability to replicate complex, dynamic problems in a way that we could probably never afford to do, then to go back and repeat it, review it, and, if needed "do over" until we work out a useful solution. Believe me, using the array of sim systems we have readily available in the Army today (if we use them properly) we can throw in any problem we want, and stress an HQ to the breaking point (or break it).

A well-designed and run digital simulated environment by itself can't make people cold, hungry, frightened and wet, but it can most definitely make them confused, tired and stressed. In terms of training the HQ as a thinking, planning and coordinating machine, JCATS, VBS, Simspeak, role players, simulated media broadcasts, etc, etc when used in concert can produce results on HQs that are at least as demanding as anything you could reproduce in the field, and probably moreso.

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pbi said:
This is a common accusation against simulation: the Brits advanced it to us to explain why they were still using live troops in the field to exercise formation HQs (a practice we hopefully stopped some time ago). It says more about the user than about the sim system.

This accusation is only true if you decide at the outset that in your simulation exercise you aren't going to present the training audience with any nasty problems. If you want to design and conduct a simex that runs like a cloth model weith no hiccups: fill your boots.

I'll disagree with this.  Sure, a good simulation can recreate nasty events for staff, but simulation can't train the formation as a whole.  Platoon and company commanders can get good at their level in a vacuum (it's nice to do a right flanking when there is nothing to your right) but the formation as a whole needs exposure to things like moving hundreds of vehicles through the same spot with the enemy trying to do something to you.  I've seen the friction this can produce at the Battle Group level both in training and operations, and I can only imagine that it gets more complex the next level up.

I'll go back to my original comment and buttress it by saying training a formation commander is more than just exercising him and his staff (although that is certainly part of it).  Your COs do a good job running level 5 ranges, but do they work well together moving thousands of soldiers around a dynamic environment?  How does the staff work in this environment?  No amount of moving icons on a screen from a comfy chair is going to tell you this.
 

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pbi said:
This is a common accusation against simulation: the Brits advanced it to us to explain why they were still using live troops in the field to exercise formation HQs (a practice we hopefully stopped some time ago). It says more about the user than about the sim system.

This accusation is only true if you decide at the outset that in your simulation exercise you aren't going to present the training audience with any nasty problems. If you want to design and conduct a simex that runs like a cloth model weith no hiccups: fill your boots.

This, IMHO, is a misuse of simulation systems' great capability to replicate complex, dynamic problems in a way that we could probably never afford to do, then to go back and repeat it, review it, and, if needed "do over" until we work out a useful solution. Believe me, using the array of sim systems we have readily available in the Army today (if we use them properly) we can throw in any problem we want, and stress an HQ to the breaking point (or break it).

A well-designed and run digital simulated environment by itself can't make people cold, hungry, frightened and wet, but it can most definitely make them confused, tired and stressed. In terms of training the HQ as a thinking, planning and coordinating machine, JCATS, VBS, Simspeak, role players, simulated media broadcasts, etc, etc when used in concert can produce results on HQs that are at least as demanding as anything you could reproduce in the field, and probably moreso.

Cheers


Odd, because the Brits used to run very ,very large scale CPXs based on a large, well staffed 'simulator.'

There were, of course, thousands and thousands of "troops in the field" because a good CPX needs a "live" signals system, that moves realistically, with all of its limitations. A 1 BR Corps CPX used to have five full 'communicating' signal regiments plus a dozen brigade and special signal squadrons in the field, providing communications for the HQs being exercised, and one more regiment providing control comms at control headquarters plus two EW regiments "attacking" the CPX in a realistic manner. That's probably nearly as many signallers (in the 1970s) as we have soldiers in 2011.

This was before most computers so the 'simulation' was 'played' by a war games team using dice, random number generators and a "bird table" - a very large map table where girls (birds, in Brit slang) moved markers over a map of the NORTHAG area. The HQs being exercised - Corps and 3 X Divs and 4CMBG were all deployed and moved moderately realistically - while higher and lower control were collocated in a large tented camp that had two battalions of infantry for 'employment.'

It worked, and I never saw CPXs done anywhere near as well in or by Canada or the USA.
 

McG

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Infanteer said:
I'll disagree with this.  Sure, a good simulation can recreate nasty events for staff, but simulation can't train the formation as a whole. 
Synthetic environments can provide outstanding training for one or more layers of headquarters.  Sub-units and below should be trained in the field with training designed such that arms and services cross-paths and that no branch/function is stovepiped in its training.  The formation should only need to exercise itself as a whole to draw things together at the end.
 

McG

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MCG said:
The formation should only need to exercise itself as a whole to draw things together at the end.
Mind you, that would be annual CMBG exercises if we wanted to convince ourselves that our brigades are actual feild formations that need to sustain/maintain a level of capability.
 

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MCG said:
Mind you, that would be annual CMBG exercises if we wanted to convince ourselves that our brigades are actual feild formations that need to sustain/maintain a level of capability.


Although the expense in dollars is great, and often the target of cuts when the budget needs saving, these large scale Exercises also have a value that dollars can't be used to gauge.  The experience that members gain from these Exercises can not be given a dollar value (a la MasterCard commercial - The experience gained is Priceless).  The Sgt Majors of tomorrow need to learn today as Cpls and Ptes how to run a unit in the Field.  The young Lts of today must learn the same, so that day in the future when they are Coy/Sqn/Bty/Bn/Regt Comds they will know how to operate under Field conditions.  The little things that one must do in the Field have to be passed on to the younger generations through practice.  If that experience is lost, it makes life miserable as those lessons are relearned.
 

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MCG said:
Mind you, that would be annual CMBG exercises if we wanted to convince ourselves that our brigades are actual feild formations that need to sustain/maintain a level of capability.
Well, we do have a Div HQ that needs to justify its existence.....

Plus, Rendezvous-type exercises could allow higher headquarters types to practice their military tourism without getting in the way of operations


Is it cynical out today, or is it just me?  ;D
 

George Wallace

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Journeyman said:
Well, we do have a Div HQ that needs to justify its existence.....

Plus, Rendezvous-type exercises could allow higher headquarters types to practice their military tourism without getting in the way of operations


Is it cynical out today, or is it just me?  ;D

Are you thinking: Booking trains, planes and automobiles?
 

vonGarvin

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As for simulation (be it with paper maps, 1's and 0's in some silicon box, whatever), it is a valuable tool in training.  It cannot replace going out into the field, but it can save the number of trips out.  And this applies at all levels.

 

pbi

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I'll disagree with this.  Sure, a good simulation can recreate nasty events for staff, but simulation can't train the formation as a whole.

OK, but I wasn't talking about training the entire formation as a whole: I was concentrating on training a formation HQ. With the exception of the Comd and his Tac party, and maybe a few LO's, most of the people in an HQ will never see the units/fmns they are controlling. They get orders from higher, hear voices on the radio, they see lines on JCHAT or Transverse, symbols and overlays on maps, watch UAV FMV feeds, get reports from LO's, etc. All of this is very readily reproduced through simulation, to as great a degree of fidelity as you want.

Platoon and company commanders can get good at their level in a vacuum (it's nice to do a right flanking when there is nothing to your right) but the formation as a whole needs exposure to things like moving hundreds of vehicles through the same spot with the enemy trying to do something to you.  I've seen the friction this can produce at the Battle Group level both in training and operations, and I can only imagine that it gets more complex the next level up.

I agree that up to about BG (level 6), putting all the bits and pieces into the field has very good value (especially live fire), once you've had a chance to work out the kinks at lower levels, and get the Bn CP sorted out (all of which, IMHO, offer appropriate roles for some kind of simulation at some stage).  I also agree that TTPs and SOPs at BG and below really must be worked out in the mud. You need to do a live fire combat team attack, not just look at it on a screen.

But, that's about where it stops, in my view. Maybe it's heresy to a generation brought up on the extravagances of the RV series, or the REFORGER/FALLEX environment in NATO. But, above BG, it isn't clear to me just who it is you're really training by putting all those bits and pieces into the field above BG level. Remember that it's actually quite rare that anybody operating at sub-unit or unit level on the ground can really see much to their left, right or rear beyond a few hundred metres or maybe a couple of km's.  Can a Pl Comd see the other Cbt Tms? Can a Cbt Tm Comd see all the other Cbt Tms, or BG HQ, or the CSS elements? Can 90% of the people in an Arty unit see who they're supporting?

No-what they're mostly aware of is the idea that all that friendly presence is out there, and they're aware of the effects that those friendly things create (arty support, AH attack, replenishment, casevac,C2, etc). This is why, above BG, simulation of one sort or another can be so useful. A tactical road move at unit level is, IMHO a very valuable training activity if it's done properly. (Actually, it seems to be a dying art...)  But, when you're on a Bde or Div road mov, how many other units do you actually see? You know that the mov is slow, and confusing, and half the buggers get lost because they didn't read their maps, but at Bde or Div HQ levels ALL of that can easily be represented through simulation, if you agree that is what you want. The problem, IMHO, is that we don't want to be bothered.

I'm not a fan of the RV series: I lived through them at coy and unit level and other than the monstrous logistics costs involved in cramming the Army into one training area, there was IMHO very, very little training of any sort done at BG and below that couldn't have been done just as well in a CMTC-type environment (or, at least in well funded and supported Level 6 training). The tactical exercises were in particular huge wasters of training time, in an Army that never has enough time. Having a company sit in a hide on 10 min NTM for eight hours might seem "realistic" to some people, but it's a waste that teaches very little.

There may have been value at formation level in those RV exercises, but again I argue that, for a formation HQ,  the great majority of this can be better achieved by well designed and intelligently run simulation, that is actually designed to challenge the training audience and break them, not to just go through a MEL and then say "aren't we great".

I still think that a large amount of the hostility toward simulation is based on  confusing "what is" (or "what was") with "what should be" (or "what could be"). If you use a system poorly, or use it for what it isn't intended to do, you will get poor results. I'm not sure that we've really been using what we've got to the best potential.

Cheers
 

George Wallace

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I disagree.  Simulation is fine for some training, but it is not a substitute for all.  I can refer back to BTE (Best Time Ever  ::) ) 2003 where our Camp Sgt Major at Peregrine whatever felt that emersion heaters did not need extra jerry cans of water next to them, not realizing that the first three people of 30 to use them left the remaining 27 without water.  "Oh, you can take the cans off of the Coyotes." was his suggestion.  Then the Coyotes were no longer prepped for departure.  He had been a Cpl when the last RV had taken place, and had no recollection of the "small things" that make life in the Field run smoothly.  Those things can not be taught, passed on to younger members, and reinforced by simulators.
 

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George Wallace said:
I disagree.  Simulation is fine for some training, but it is not a substitute for all.  I can refer back to BTE (Best Time Ever  ::) ) 2003 where our Camp Sgt Major at Peregrine whatever felt that emersion heaters did not need extra jerry cans of water next to them, not realizing that the first three people of 30 to use them left the remaining 27 without water.  "Oh, you can take the cans off of the Coyotes." was his suggestion.  Then the Coyotes were no longer prepped for departure.  He had been a Cpl when the last RV had taken place, and had no recollection of the "small things" that make life in the Field run smoothly.  Those things can not be taught, passed on to younger members, and reinforced by simulators.

No one has suggested simulation replaces field training.  However, rather than running Div level exercises where troops spend much time stuck in the higher HQ's decision cycle with thumbs wedged into various bodily orifices, simulation takes the HQ planning out, and we can then stil lconduct lower level training that still gets troops into the field and doing things like keeping the explosion heaters filled with water.

My main beef with simulation is that we're unwilling to introduce real measures of logistics into them.  Unfortunately, in training we too often pretend that log just happens by some black magic, which leaves some leaders in the dark when reality occurs.
 

George Wallace

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dapaterson said:
No one has suggested simulation replaces field training.  However, rather than running Div level exercises where troops spend much time stuck in the higher HQ's decision cycle with thumbs wedged into various bodily orifices, simulation takes the HQ planning out, and we can then stil lconduct lower level training that still gets troops into the field and doing things like keeping the explosion heaters filled with water.

My main beef with simulation is that we're unwilling to introduce real measures of logistics into them.  Unfortunately, in training we too often pretend that log just happens by some black magic, which leaves some leaders in the dark when reality occurs.

But this is still realistic.  Troops do spend a lot of time with their thumbs up their arse, doing maint, replenishment, resting, rehearsing, etc. while plans are made.  It is ninety-nine per cent sheer boredom and one per cent pure adrenaline rush. 

What we really lack is enough troops to conduct massive force on force Exercises like the Reforgers.  Rolling down a Trace in Gagetown/Wainwright/etc. and having someone point out a tree on the skyline and saying that it represents a Coy of T-72s is a joke.
 

McG

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George Wallace said:
I disagree.  Simulation is fine for some training, but it is not a substitute for all.  I can refer back to BTE (Best Time Ever  ::) ) 2003 where our Camp Sgt Major at Peregrine whatever felt that emersion heaters did not need extra jerry cans of water next to them, not realizing that the first three people of 30 to use them left the remaining 27 without water.  "Oh, you can take the cans off of the Coyotes." was his suggestion.  Then the Coyotes were no longer prepped for departure.  He had been a Cpl when the last RV had taken place, and had no recollection of the "small things" that make life in the Field run smoothly.  Those things can not be taught, passed on to younger members, and reinforced by simulators.
Nobody is suggesting simulation is a substitute for all.  Synthetic environments are an excellent means of training HQs (and without the need to deploy whole formations).  The MWO in your example should not need a brigade or division level exercise to learn the management of emersion heaters - that is a lesson that should come from unit (or even sub-unit) level field training.
 

George Wallace

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True, but this type of training has fallen to the wayside.  It is examples such as this that show we are neglecting the Field training.  Do we have to do it all the time?  No.  We do, however, have to do it to keep those little skill sets that make a Section on up to Div HQ mesh. 

We have troops today that can do a lot of things on simulators, but when it comes to going to the Field they are totally out of their element.  They don't know how to set up a Penthouse/Mod tent to house their work/living space.  They don't know how to run up a mast.  They don't know how to use the ground for cover when they move.  Spacing.  Little things that should be reinforced more than once every ten years.  Some of these things are covered with Mission Specific training during Work Up training for deployment, but much of it is not. 

I am not advocating that we need to spend all of our time in the Field, but we must spend some time there.  Getting locked into simulators full time seems to be the way we have swung and can not simulate all of the aspects we need to practice in actual Field conditions.
 

vonGarvin

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George Wallace said:
I am not advocating that we need to spend all of our time in the Field, but we must spend some time there.  Getting locked into simulators full time seems to be the way we have swung and can not simulate all of the aspects we need to practice in actual Field conditions.
Therein lies the problem: misapplication of a tool.  It has nothing to do with the simulators, or simulation training at all, but rather with "them".  (Where "them" = "people who don't understand how to use simulation").
 
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George Wallace said:
They don't know how to set up a Penthouse/Mod tent to house their work/living space.  They don't know how to run up a mast.  They don't know how to use the ground for cover when they move.  Spacing.  Little things that should be reinforced more than once every ten years. 

George, none of this is training at the level being talked about.
 

George Wallace

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CDN Aviator said:
George, none of this is training at the level being talked about.

What I am trying to point out is that it is these small things in the Field that make or break the higher levels of trg.  If the unit can't work as a team to set up their organization in the Field, then they are going to fail.  Before anyone can start strategizing they have to set up a facility to do so.  If the capabilities to plug everything in are not there, nothing will work.  Walking into a computer lab and sitting down at a monitor and wargaming is fine, but who is going to do the setup in the Field?  There is no simulation once deployed to the Field.
 
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aesop081

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George Wallace said:
What I am trying to point out is that it is these small things in the Field that make or break the higher levels of trg.  If the unit can't work as a team to set up their organization in the Field, then they are going to fail.  Before anyone can start strategizing they have to set up a facility to do so.  If the capabilities to plug everything in are not there, nothing will work.  Walking into a computer lab and sitting down at a monitor and wargaming is fine, but who is going to do the setup in the Field?  There is no simulation once deployed to the Field.

Yes George, i know what you are saying but you are still missing the point. Not one person here has said that field training should be entirely replaced by simulation but do we have to send entire formations to the field just so the HQ can practice barrier planing ?

No we dont.

If 1 CMBG HQ & Sigs needs to practice putting the HQ together in the field, thats unit level training and they can do that without putting the whole brigade out in Wainwright. To do so would be a foolish use of resources.

People are talking about HHQ staff training and you are talking about immersion heaters..........
 

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While simulation such as JCATs is a great way to provide inputs to BG and higher level staffs, having gone through BTE 03 I think that there is certainly value in getting the entire formation out in the rhubarb. On a BG ex you get to call your own shots and you are the centre of attention. If you want it you get it.

On a brigade level exercise suddenly there are other units out there who might get priority for scarce resources. You actually have to conduct coordination to link-up with other units. Your CSS piece actually gets exercised. You suddenly have to step-up your BG CP and it turns out that it is happening during an attack. Oops. Random friendly air defence units are desperately trying to shoot you in your assembly area with their ADATs. Other random air defence units are getting lost in your delay plus of the obstacle you are in control of and they only have one means - and they aren't on yours.

Sure, there's time when you are wondering what is going on higher up, but that is when you sleep.

Don't get me wrong - I enjoy simulation and put my Sqn through it whenever I can.
 
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