War time training strategy
U.S. soldiers in Shah Joy, Afghanistan
January 28th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

War time training strategy

By CNN"s Larry Shaughnessy

The U.S. military has been at war for more than a decade, its longest stretch of continuous fighting ever. But the new budget released this week by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta includes a mandate for new training in how to fight a war.

Why does a battle-hardened Army need training on how to fight a war? Look at it this way. The Army is like a football team that for the past 10 years has been forced to play soccer. Now the soccer game is nearly over, and they have to prepare for the Super Bowl. Sure their kicking game may be solid, but they haven't thrown a forward pass in years.

"You've got some artillery officers who've never fired a gun, certainly not in a combat situation," Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby explained.

We should stop here and explain. The Army does not call those things that a soldier carries and fire bullets to be "guns." Those are called rifles or sidearms. A "gun" is a large cannon-like weapon that fires rounds the size of your head, if not bigger.

Kirby's point is that for 10-plus years in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Army and Marines have largely been fighting counterinsurgency (COIN) operations. The enemy - which uses small arms and handmade bombs - has no armored vehicles, no aviation support and little in the way of communications gear to coordinate attacks.

Our next war may look very different.

North Korea has one of the world's largest special operations forces, as well as tanks, artillery, short-range ballistic missiles, anti-aircraft weapons and a huge army.

Iran has tanks, submarines, fighter jets and anti-ship missiles.

That is why Panetta said Thursday, when the budget plan was released, "The strategy requires the Army to return to a full-spectrum training, developing a versatile mix of capabilities; developing a versatile mix of formations and equipment to succeed on land, including in environments where access will be contested."

Elaborating on the secretary's remarks Friday, Kirby said, "It's about preparing troops for the full range of missions and capabilities that we're expected as a military to provide the country."

Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, said the plan to offer a wider array of training is already being devised for a U.S. base in Germany.

"We will rotate units, for example, into our training - our training complex we have at (this base) that allow us to train with our NATO partners and also with some of our other partners in Europe," he said. "And we'll be able to do that at several levels - a battalion level, a company level, across several different domains."

While the secretary didn't mandate "full-spectrum training" for the Marines, Kirby said they are facing a similar problem tied to focusing too much on counterinsurgency and less on the corps' original mission.

"You've got some young Marines who've never deployed on a ship, who've never practiced amphibious warfare," Kirby said. "What we're recognizing here after 10 years of very manpower-intensive counterinsurgency warfare, our capabilities, our conventional capabilities - that's what we need to focus on."

To do that, the Marines are changing what they teach at their main training base in Twentynine Palms in California.

And this week the Marines are launching Bold Alligator, the corps' largest amphibious-landing exercise on the U.S. East Coast in a decade. Some 20,000 Marines and other troops aboard 25 ships and 120 aircraft will practice a Marine specialty - landing a large, self-contained fighting unit on a beachhead in a short time.

"It's today's fight with today's forces, and represents the revitalization of the full range of amphibious operations," Lt. Micheal Sheehan said about Bold Alligator.

Still, this new approach doesn't mean the old one is suddenly irrelevant. All this training for the so-called next war, notably, is happening even as 91,000 US troops are still fighting the war in Afghanistan.

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Filed under: Army • Budget • Marines • Military • Security Brief
soundoff (17 Responses)
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    June 21, 2013 at 11:17 am | Reply
  2. Airman

    We need to fucking nuke the Iranians. I would feel a lit better. I was trained to kill and await my orders to drop my bombs. Please order me to do my job and blow those Musloid motherfuckers to hell !!!!!

    January 30, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Reply
    • Iranacockuptheirass

      MAN...here is a man after my own heart!!! Good luck to you sir and may you kill 6000 stupid desert monkey people in the shit that they lay in....Gods speed

      January 31, 2012 at 12:35 am | Reply
  3. IceZephyr

    As an up-and-coming 2nd Lt in the USAF, I'm glad to see DOD focusing on real warfare again. We can't let our fighting doctrine stagnate – ever. It doesn't matter who we're fighting at the time. Beat one war and prepare for the next. Smart thinking.

    January 30, 2012 at 11:18 am | Reply
  4. devin leonard

    This is a good strategy. We need to keep our experiences with counter-insurgency strong and go back to the cold-war abilities we had prior to 9/11. Having the most capable all around fighting force in history is America's strength...and we need to ensure that North Korea, Iran and China know that we will have this military for years to come.

    Also we need to pump more money into our Spec Ops and Tier 1 units. As a former Force Recon Marine, I know the value in Spe Ops warfare...and we have the best Spec Ops and Tier 1 units on earth. More money for them is essential.

    January 29, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Reply
  5. brown

    Our TRILLION dollar milltary cannot beat a bunch of cave dwellers with small arms! We should not seek conflict with
    a well armed foe!

    January 29, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Reply
    • devin leonard

      Our trillion dollar army HAS been beating a bunch of cave dwellers..BADLY. We have killied 20,000 of them. And now they are desperate to negotiate with us because of the hammering we have given them for 10 years....get your facts straight moron!

      January 29, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      We won in 2 weeks. We are merely policing. No army on earth could challenge us.

      January 30, 2012 at 1:03 am | Reply
    • Chris

      Your name is not brown, it's Ching Chang Chong!

      January 30, 2012 at 1:04 am | Reply
  6. Dan the man

    With all the Generals we have around a 1000, and all the strategists working in the Pentagon, how could they lose sight of conventional warfare! They shut down everything to concentrate on a police action in Iraq/Afghanistan now they unqualified Armor/Artillery Officers running around with field grade rank on!

    January 29, 2012 at 11:28 am | Reply
  7. Matt

    You train for larger conventional wars, via module warfare, that way you can mix and match the modules. It is far easier to train for a large war and scale down to a smaller war than the other way around. Ok say a conventional war enters a counter insurgency due to the need for occupation of territory after the initial conventional conflict ends. That is what happened in Iraq. So COIN is just one module. Amphibious operations are just another module.

    That is what Israel has done and it allows the flexibility to deal with all conflicts and to fight hybrid groups like Hizbullah that are between a terror group and a conventional force. They open up a file called OP South every time there is an escalation in Gaza and that is modules that span from a large scale conventional attack like Cast Lead (which was made up of modules and phases to a drone targeted killing program. etc. With a heavy input on intelligence led operations for superior effect. The intelligence led aspect is resource intensive and constantly need to be updated. So the Defense Minister has a full array of options in front of him ready to be implement if he orders it.

    So Israel can scale down from a multiple AO war that would involve Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Gaza, to individual AO's and then modules from high intensity, mid intensity, various modules and phases mixed and matched for that AO .Using the principle that a lot of simple things put together(modules) makes something complex but workable, while a lot of complex things (modules) placed together makes something too complex and unworkable.

    We are entering the 4th year of the 4th year Afghan plan, now while the insurgency has been blunted, the WHAM has failed to a large degree, it is a rural based insurgency and the Talib still have a lot of support from the population. This was always going to be the case without a reliable indigenous partner to fulfill the civil role, good governance etc.

    The underlining issues that pull the population to support the Taliban are still in play.

    January 28, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Reply
    • Cheese Wonton

      Israel hasn't fought a peer military since 1982. No one knows how they would perform today. They didn't do so well against the Hezzies in 2006 and I think the knowledge that Hezbollah has missiles capable of reaching any city in Israel keeps Israel from attacking Iran. They know that while Iran would not be able to retaliate effectively, Hezbollah could make things very very hard for Israel and would certainly cause enormous damage to Israeli population centers unlike anything Israel has faced in the past.

      January 29, 2012 at 2:09 am | Reply
  8. mipolitic

    nothing more than a soldier hates more than anything else is all the training and than standing down and playing the hurry up and wait program. but pres obama is thinking amphibious units that is somthing that a lot of troops would be more than pleased to hear. they have a lot of tactics that result in vary sharp spear. but there is nothing like darts from long distances. there is nothing more demoralizing to an enemy than being crushed form above and no enemy to engage.

    January 28, 2012 at 9:41 am | Reply
    • ranger 830

      I have seen this first hand!!!! I was a young PFC. during desert sheild desert storm then deployed with 24th INF. Div. I can tell you that 99.9% of those Iraqs could not wait to surrender! They hatted those cluster bombs. All we would here is I love George Bush, and please no more iron rain!!!! So as a 21 year vet now alot older and wiser I will have to agree that nothing is more demoralizing than having your ass kicked from afar and not being able to do a dam thing about it!
      RLTW.

      January 29, 2012 at 10:35 am | Reply

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