Bulletin Daily Paper 05-30-15

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TH E BULLETIN• SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2015

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Photos by Keith Myers /The Kansas City Star

An M1A2 Abrams tank fires at a target during training exercises this week at Fort Riley, Kansas. The Army, after years of fighting insurgents, is shifting focus back to its core mission. "You hope it wouldn't be World War III, but you have to prepare for the worst," says Lt. Gen. Robert Brown. "We need to be ready to play against the pro teams, not just the amateurs."

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rm e ins trainin or t enextwar — a i oneBy Rick Montgomerye The Kansas City Star

FORT RILEY, Kan. — For more than a decade, troops here have been

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schooled in counterinsurgency. I

"Mission-specific" training, they call it: going house to house, busting down

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doors, rooting out terror cells, recognizing crude explosives.

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Now, after a pair of mission-specific wars, an Army in transition aims to get

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back to the future.

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The training needed to fight full-scale, more convention-

al battles has suffered, Army

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leaders contend. So Fort Ri-

ley is putting soldiers such as Staff Sgt. Gilbert Monroe back into big tanks and simulatingwars on a scalegrander than Iraq or Afghanistan. "This is what I signed up for," Monroe said. He began his military career 14 years ago in an Ml Abrams tank. But he spent tours in Iraq commanding

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more nimble armored vehi-

cles, rolling on eight tires and lacking the heft to blast a target from 2 miles out. With Americans still a s-

sessing what was gained from fighting two drawn-out conflicts at the same time, are self on the strategic stage, ex- of deep-rooted grasslands that they ready to start thinking perts say. quickly rebound from the tank about thenext war — maybe Now facing steep troop re- tracks, firesand otherscarsof even The Big One? ductions planned by the Pen- mock battlefield maneuvers. tagon, "the Army really is In combined-arms exercises 'Proteams' looking for a strategic frame- slated for next month, "we'll "You hope it wouldn't be work in which to remain rele- have a synchronization of World War III, but you have vant," said Kelley Sayler of the artillery, aviation, howitzers, to prepare for the worst," Center for a New American tanks ... everything we've said Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, Security, an independent re- got," said Maj. Steve Veves. His commanding general of the search organization. tank group fired at long-disA rmy's Combined A r m s "And you do need to train tance targets last week. Center at Fort Leavenworth.

forthe prospect ofan epic war,

"We need tobe ready to play

even if there's a low likelihood of it happening," Sayler said.

against the pro teams, not just

the amateurs." By that he means a nation such as North Korea, even

Russia. A "pro team" could even be a band of radicals with the means to acquire na-

tionlike resources in a hurry — such as those fighters who call themselves the Islamic

calculated that the next war

And that requires the re-

acquainting of soldiers with epic battle plans featuring

Don't think of t h e activities at Fort Riley as training for a "conventional" war, said

tanks, surface-to-air missiles,

Brown of the Combined Arms

"You just don't know what the next conflict will entail."

Future wars

Center. "A nation-state fighting against another nation-state se t h a s p e r - would be so complex these

gency. We still need to train for that. But we also have to

get back to bread-and-butter skills such as precise artillery, precise gunnery." Fort Riley officials say de-

days, so unlike World War II, you couldhardly make a comparison," he said. Future wars wouldn't compare even with Operation Desert Storm, the 1991 land as-

sault in which a multinational forcedrove Iraqitroops outof

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s imulation l aboratory. T h e

software allows moving soldiers to become their own fighting avatars, surrounded by a virtual battleground they view through helmets.

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became the first in the Army •

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"You become immersed,"

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said Bill Raymann, chief of training at the fort's Close

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Combat and Tactical Training

campus. "If a simulation is done cor-

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rectly, it'll take the brain about

15 seconds to adjust back. You walk out the door surprised: 'Oh, I'm really in Kansas.'" Indoor simulators helped Pfc. Christian McClure get

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down the mechanics of load-

Kuwait. Brown said techno-

ing an Abrams tank. "They help, but nothing can

logical leaps since then, plus

simulate like this does," Mc-

Clure said just before wedging into a real tank and practional battle plans. ticing live action on the firing "No enemy today would range. cisive-action training blends yesterday's emphasis on bat- be stupid enough to allow us Although many experts, tlefield prowess with the peo- months and months to build including some top Pentagon ple skills required of troops up forces," as was the case in brass, question the Army's more recently focused on Desert Storm, he said. need for heavy t anks a n d counterinsurgency. Livsey said Fort Riley pro- howitzers for future conflicts, At a time when U.S. milivides the perfect stage to repli- McClureand tank commandtary action has become de- cate a complex battle across a er Monroe would rather be nofined by targeted airstrikes, vastlandscape. where else in battle. "You can always use a ships jockeying in the South Home to the nation's 1st China Sea and a reluctance to Infantry Division, known as tank," Monroe said. "And, unplace boots on the ground, the "the Big Red One," the fort fortunately, there will always Army is seeking to reassert it- boasts more than 75,000 acres be wars to fight." threats posed by cyberattackers, have transformed conven-

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would be like the last, Bensa- to use gaming software dehel said. veloped atFort Leavenworth's

Apache choppers and militaryprecision exercised overa broad and rugged terrain.

ished," said Timothy Livsey, Fort Riley's deputy garrison commander. "It's a paradigm shift for the Army," Livsey said. "With Iraq and Afghanistan, it was all about COIN — counterinsur-

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The Army's National Train-

ing Center in the Mojave Desert has long been a site of "You don't w ant b attlefield intensive battlefield maneuskills to atrophy." vers for deploying troops. The Nora Bensahel, a defense military is shifting more of policy expert at American that training to home stations University, agreed. such as Fort Riley, and some of "You have to prepare for the them have already been workfull spectrum," she said. ing on the new training. Generations of U.S. military Relying also on simulated planners have gravely mis- training, Fort Riley this year

State, recruiting through the global reach of the Web. In Army-speak, the training needed to fight that brand of enemy is shifting away from "mission-specific" toward "decisive action."

" That skill

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Capt. Brian Kossler talks about the features of a M1A2 Abrams tank simulator at Fort Riley in Kansas.

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