By Donna Miles
WASHINGTON, June 26, 2006 – If the Defense Department's training transformation effort was summed up into a simple bumper-sticker-type slogan, it would read, "Train as you operate," a senior Defense Department told the Pentagon Channel. That's a concept that Paul Mayberry, deputy undersecretary of defense for readiness, said ensures that U.S. troops who deploy into the combat theater are prepared to successfully carry out their missions and return home safely. "We operate as a joint team with our multinational partners and in coalitions, and we operate over tremendous distances and in multiple locations," he said during a June 23 interview.
So that's the way, Mayberry said, the military needs to train. "Trying to take the very essence of the way we operate in theater and making sure our forces are prepared to execute those exact missions is what training transformation is all about," he said. Not surprisingly, combat veterans returning from the Middle East are becoming the biggest advocates of this new training approach, Mayberry said. "They're saying, 'Geez, this is the way we operate. How can we not train that way?'" Mayberry said. "So it has really been the combat veterans - the men and women who have been on the ground - coming back and demanding that we as a department change."
That's a major sea change from the days when the military focused on what Mayberry called "service-centric training." Now, the focus has moved to training troops to conduct joint, integrated and interdependent operations they're using every day in the global war on terror. Mayberry cited the June 7 air strike that took out former al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as an example of that coordination. "That was an operation that actually began much earlier at home station," with the soldiers, Marines and Special Forces troops involved receiving cultural and language training, Mayberry explained. This training enabled them to "establish a true bond with the local Iraqis there" so they could collect critical intelligence information that led to the successful strike, he said.
"Some years ago, it would have been very difficult for our air forces to be able to execute that type of time-sensitive and critical intelligence information," he said. But with major training centers providing true-to-life scenarios that enable servicemembers to work together in a joint environment to collect information, turn it into actionable intelligence, then conduct their joint operations, the troops had the training they needed to target Zarqawi, he said. Mayberry called the operation "an accomplishment that just even a few years ago, our forces were not able to jointly accomplish."
Better, more innovative training continues to build on this new capability. Mayberry cited Exercise United Endeavor 06-2, which recently wrapped up at Fort Hood, Texas, as an example. U.S. Joint Forces Command sponsored the week-long mission rehearsal exercise to help prepare U.S. Army 3rd Corps troops for their upcoming rotation to Iraq. The exercise brought together troops in multiple locations through a virtual training environment as they tackled joint training problems like those they're likely to encounter in Iraq, Mayberry explained. Participating troops operated from their home stations, including elements of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, the 1st Cavalry Division in Texas, and other players in Germany; Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; Hurlburt Field, Fla.; and U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., among others.
One of the greatest advantages of the training transformation efforts is that forces are increasingly able to remain at their home stations as they train. "We do not need to assemble all the live forces in one central location" when they can interact through a realistic virtual environment, Mayberry said. The new training concept also brings together all the elements U.S. troops would encounter on a real-life operation: active- and reserve-component members, DoD civilians and civilians from other government agencies, among them. Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, who assumed command of 3rd Corps May 15, raved about the benefits of the training. Odierno called it "something he as a corps commander would never have been able to accomplish" before the joint training capability was developed as part of DoD's training transformation program, Mayberry reported.
The Defense Department is committed to building on this capability and to ensure its forces have the agility and responsiveness they need to counter the threats they face today and into the future, he said. Unlike the early days of the training transformation effort, when its proponents received "tremendous pushback," today the biggest advocates of the program are the troops returning from combat, Mayberry said. Mayberry challenged them to continue to push the department to ensure they're getting both the right training and the right mix of training they need.
He urged them to "make sure we are focused on whatever the current challenges are and being responsive to the lessons learned," while "keeping a vision to the future and what other challenges may be out there."