DOD: Forces must fight as one

The success of future joint operations will depend largely on the type of training the troops involved receive, officials said July 10 at a National Training Systems Association conference.

Defense Department officials used the conference in Alexandria, Va. to outline the future of the Joint National Training Capability.

The Joint National Training Capability is DOD's concept of how joint training will occur. It involves live fire and simulated exercises, training, and investing in technologies that will allow military services to work together in a battlefield scenario.

"We are operating in a 21st century environment where threats are amorphous and characterized by uncertainty, surprise and asymmetry," said Paul Mayberry, deputy Undersecretary of Defense for readiness. "The JNTC will determine how we can develop capabilities to balance the full range of military operations."

While Mayberry acknowledged that developing a joint process "is not always pretty," future combat operations will demand that the services coordinate and work together.

"We need a realistic training facility; one that's adaptive, live and credible," he said.

The Joint National Training Capability is about more than just ensuring the four services can fight together as one, he said. It will rely on intergovernmental, interagency and coalition training, as well.

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling, director for operational plans and joint force development, said the ad hoc method services have fought in a joint manner — specifically in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom — have been ad hoc.

"We have to do more than just achieve jointness," Hertling said. "If you look at Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, jointness was the equivalent of doing laser brain surgery in a canoe on the whitewater. It's hard stuff."

The cultural change of accepting what other services can offer will be difficult, Hertling said, but vital to overcome to achieve interoperability. The armed services have to improve its ability to apply lessons learned, he said. Retired Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, director of DOD transformation, said interoperability has been achieved over the past several years, but only through a grueling process.

"I was an abysmal failure" at fostering the services to work together, he said. "But when I look at others with the job, they haven't done much better because we're chasing interoperability, and that's like pushing a rope."

In the future, forces are going to have to fight as one unit, regardless of how they train, because the true power of the American military lies in its ability to work together toward one operational goal.

"If we do this without training on an ad hoc basis, we do it at risk," he said. "The consequences of failure are just too great."

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