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Joint Training on the Way for Joint Fighters
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2003 – A Marine unit facing combat runs into opposition. The call goes out for fire support. In the past, the call would likely have gone to a Marine artillery unit or air asset.

Today, that call could go to an Army helicopter unit or an Air Force precision-strike aircraft. It could go to a Navy fighter-bomber staging off a carrier or even to a submarine that would launch a Tomahawk missile.

In other words, the joint force is now a reality and the American military must train as it fights. Along with the rest of the military, DoD is transforming the way the services train.

The world has dramatically changed, said Paul Mayberry, deputy defense undersecretary for readiness. "The strategic environment has changed," Mayberry said during an interview, "and the United States military must change also."

The American military no longer confronts a known enemy with standing forces. U.S. personnel have to train to fight major combat operations, but they also need to train to handle smaller contingencies. The American military's emphasis now is on flexibility and adaptability, Mayberry said. The military must be able to deal with surprise, uncertainty and asymmetric threats.

At the same time the American military is moving away from large permanent standing organizations with large support elements backing them up, Mayberry said. Joint task forces will handle these contingencies, and the JTFs will generally be "smaller and highly distributed joint and combined forces."

The biggest transformation in training will be the emphasis on joint operations. "We fight as a joint team," Mayberry said. "We must train routinely in a joint environment."

The Joint National Training Capability is the centerpiece of the new training initiative. "The ultimate end state of JNTC is that no individual, unit or staff enters combat prior to being able to fully experience the complexity and stress of their joint requirements in a robust and realistic training environment," he said.

The capability was initially supposed to be a Joint National Training Center – a place where joint task forces would train before deployment.

But the thinking changed and experience showed that the center does not have to be a physical place, but a way to link forces throughout the world. So an Army unit, for example, training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., could link with Air Force units training out of Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Marine units training at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif., and with Navy ships maneuvering off the coast of California.

Or the units don't even have to be in the same hemisphere. Using simulations, staffs can train wherever they can get a computer connection. This would closely mirror the way the commands worked together during Operation Iraqi Freedom, with staffs working closely together even though based in Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Tampa, Fla.

The goal is realistic joint training "against thinking and adaptive oppositional forces," Mayberry said. Like the service training areas, the Joint National Training Capability will have instruments in place to help officials reconstruct battles and a process that allows feedback leading to an after-action review.

Training transformation will allow the United States military to function in a multinational coalition setting, Mayberry said. It will also allow DoD to operate with other federal government agencies as well as work with state and local governments.

The U.S. Joint Forces Command is in charge of the effort to set up the JNTC. Now specialists are working to see if the military training ranges can be linked together. Mayberry said this first phase will culminate in January with the first JNTC exercise in the western United States. The JNTC's initial operating capability is scheduled for October 2004, he said.

Mayberry said that DoD will spend $1.3 billion on this capability through fiscal 2009, and he expects the capabilities to change over time. "Just as the service training areas developed over time, I expect the JNTC will grow as the idea matures," he said.