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Camp Bullis Provides Example in Joint, Cooperative Training

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

CAMP BULLIS, Texas, Feb. 17, 2005 – With transformation plans calling for major changes at the military's major combat training centers to make them better able to support joint operations, there's much to be learned from the example being set here.

At just under 28,000 acres, Camp Bullis is a fraction of the size of the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.; the Air Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.; the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif.; and the Navy's instrumented sea ranges.

Yet this training site just north of San Antonio offers a tremendous example of maximizing training space and supporting a full array of military training for all services.

"It's not necessarily the size that counts," said Army Lt. Col. Jimmie Keenan, commander of Camp Bullis. "It's how much training you're putting through your training area."

Camp Bullis has traditionally hosted Army medical specialists training in the field skills they would need to practice combat medicine. It now supports field training for several tri-service courses, including the Combat Casualty Care Course for Army, Navy and Air Force medical department officers and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Science's "Operation Bushmaster" field training exercise.

But Camp Bullis is no longer all about medicine. Ten years ago, the Air Force opened its Ground Combat School here. The Air Force recent launched its new Basic Combat Convoy Course here to train airmen to provide convoy security in Iraq, and is building a permanent facility for the course, to be called Camp Anderson-Peters.

Marines from the 4th Reconnaissance Unit, a reserve unit assigned to the 4th Marine Reconnaissance Battalion, hone their skills here before reporting to Camp Pendleton, Calif., for additional training.

And the Navy buses sailors 150 miles north of their ships in Corpus Christi so they can conduct their weapons training here.

But Keenan said these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Camp Bullis is a proverbial revolving door for Guardsmen and reservists, an overflow training area for sprawling Fort Hood, Texas, and an explosive ordnance training site for both Lackland Air Force Base and Fort Sam Houston.

Local, state and federal agencies, including the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency, also train here on the post's ranges and the Military Operations in Urban Terrain site.

That's because Camp Bullis is conveniently located to numerous military bases and federal offices and provides ranges, training facilities and maneuver areas that set the stage for tough, realistic training, Keenan said.

Demand for these training areas is on the upswing, particularly in light of the ongoing global war on terror and homeland security missions. During fiscal 2004, the post tallied 800,000 training days, up a full 100,000 from the previous year. And with careful planning and "creative scheduling," Keenan is convinced Camp Bullis probably could support up to 1 million training days a year.

What Camp Bullis doesn't offer the opportunity to fire long-range weapons or ammunition larger than a 7.62 mm machine gun round -- it makes up for in what Keenan calls "leather personnel carrier training," or light infantry, boots-on- the-ground training. And regardless of a unit's specific mission, she said, those basic skills are universally critical when it deploys.

To keep up with demand, Camp Bullis will soon offer a new, larger Military Operations in Urban Terrain training site and simulators that help replicate convoy scenarios for troops deploying to Iraq. A new live-fire convoy range, near the new MOUT site, will enable units to move into and out of a "kill zone" as they train.

These advancements, funded cooperatively by the services, will also be used cooperatively to train their members, Keenan said. She said it's not unusual to see one service training on one side of the street in the MOUT village, and another service on the other side of the street. Similarly, it's typical to see the Air Force and Marines conducting convoy security operations together, and the Navy is expected to join in soon as well.

"We could potentially have Navy personnel being trained here by Air Force personnel on an Army installation," Keenan said.

This mindset, once unheard-of within the military services, is now becoming a model of working together to get the most out of limited resources. "We all have to have these capabilities," Keenan said. "By working together, we can get the resources we need to provide this training faster, and they'll be better."

So as the post continues to expand and improve its features, Keenan said the focus will remain on training cooperatively, sharing resources, and whenever possible, training jointly.

"It's not just the Army deployed in Iraq," she said. "It's everybody, and we all have to train together. We have to think outside of the box about how to train side by side."

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