Combined Resolve Reflects Post-2014 NATO Training
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2013 A training rotation underway at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, offers a glimpse at the direction NATO training is expected to take as the alliance concludes its mission in Afghanistan next year and implements a new strategy focused on the future.
Soldiers from the Czech Republic assemble after disembarking from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during an air insertion exercise mission at Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Hohenfels, Germany, Nov. 11, 2013. The Czech Republic is participating in exercise Combined Resolve with the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team to train for post-2014 NATO missions. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Caleb Barrieau
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
For more than a decade, the training center has centered on preparing U.S. and European militaries for combat rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army Col. John Norris, the JMRC commander, told American Forces Press Service during a phone interview from Hohenfels, Germany.
That training focused predominantly on counterinsurgency operations, Norris said. Over time, it evolved to include stability operations and to prepare International Security Assistance Force members to train and mentor Iraqi and Afghan national security forces. But with the Iraq mission now completed and ISAF drawing down in Afghanistan, Norris said, it’s time for NATO to revamp how it trains its own forces.
So the JMRC cadre kicked off the first iteration of the new Combined Resolve series last week, reintroducing the full spectrum of combat operations into a multinational rotation for the first time in more than a decade.
“This is a paradigm shift,” Norris said. “This is now introducing our multinational partners to the post-ISAF, post-2014 environment and what is next. This rotation is clearly a pilot and example of that.”
Combined Resolve integrates armored vehicle, artillery and aviation maneuvers and other high-end operations into training that includes more than 2,200 U.S., Czech, Slovenian, Norwegian and French forces.
The U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade headquarters deployed from Vicenza, Italy, to serve as the rotational command element. A mechanized task force from the Czech Republic arrived with T-72 battle tanks, BMP-3 amphibious infantry fighting vehicles, engineer vehicles and artillery batteries. The Norwegian army deployed a mechanized task force, complete with Leopard-2 main battle tanks and other tracked vehicles, to serve as the opposing force. The Slovenians deployed about 190 members of the 10th Slovenian Mountain Regiment.
In addition, U.S. Navy SEALS and a French special operations team are supporting the rotation.
Together, they are conducting combined-arms maneuvers that Norris said had been sidelined for years due to real-world requirements that focused predominantly on lower-end operations.
“We have lost some key skill sets and operational talent to be able to do that, because it is probably one of the most difficult and challenging forms of maneuver,” he said. “To be able to synchronize all those assets -- attack aviation, fixed wing with the ground maneuver elements -- is no easy task. It is very, very difficult and very, very challenging.”
NATO defense and military leaders recognized this gap when they adopted the Connected Forces Initiative last month. Part of the NATO Forces 2020 concept, the initiative aims to enhance NATO’s overall readiness and combat effectiveness, in part through tailored and expanded training.
“What we have going on right now in Hohenfels is in fact a living example, a proof of principle on the vision of the Connected Forces Initiative,” Norris said.
With the first week of training dedicated to situational training exercises, the participants are kicking off the “force-on-force” training today.
“This is powerful,” Norris said. “It is live, it is free play and it is 24 hours. You have a live enemy, you have a live friendly, and they both want to win.”
When Combined Resolve wraps up Nov. 24, Norris said, he’s confident the participants will take home valuable lessons and insights into what’s ahead for military training.
“This represents the future of warfare and how we will fight our nation’s wars,” he said. “We will always fight in a multinational environment. That’s why this training mission, Combined Resolve, focuses on sustaining the partnerships and the interoperability we have achieved during the last 12 years of war.”
JMRC represents the perfect site to do this, not only because of its vast training opportunities, but also because of its proximity to many multinational partners, Norris said. That makes the training affordable -- a major consideration, he said, as all struggle with defense budget cuts.
The goal, Norris said, is to ensure NATO forces are prepared for the challenges they will face together post-2014.
“We want them to be compatible and interoperable so that we can all form a security blanket and work together in the future,” he said.
(Follow Donna Miles on Twitter: @MilesAFPS)