Mission Command Training Program staff report
FORT HOOD, Texas — The largest allied warfighter in the history of the Mission Command Training Program concluded April 15 at Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Hood, Texas; and Fort Bliss, Texas, with several other geographic locations in support. Warfighter 21-4 successfully integrated joint and combined operations with U.S. Army, Air Force, and multiple NATO partners all working in concert during the exercise.
Lt. Gen Pat White, III Corps commanding general, stressed the importance of the exercise.
“For those of you participating in WFX 21-4, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” White said. “III Corps is serving as the heart of a joint-combined arms force.”
MCTP is responsible for executing warfighter exercises as collective training directed by the chief of staff of the Army. The organization provided observer coach/trainers and senior mentors during the train up and execution of the event. These MCTP personnel and retired general officers are uniquely skilled to provide feedback, expertise, and mentorship to the training units throughout all phases of the exercise. MCTP mentors are subsequently able to build their own expertise from allied exercises and pass on lessons learned during warfighters supporting future active, reserve, and National Guard training audiences.
Multiple Army commands, headquarters and program executive offices worked for months to prepare the Army for Warfighter 21-4. Part of the preparation included activation of a new computer network designed to streamline interoperability between U.S. forces and allied partners. As the new system develops, it will support all NATO units and their ability to shoot, move and communicate across a complex battlefield. One of the main challenges of this exercise was interoperability constraints caused by integrating systems; however, the new computer network was able to process sustainment, fires, and operations effectively from all NATO partners during the warfighter.
The successful lessons learned during the exercise will inform Army decisions regarding digital command and control systems in support of Army Waypoint 2028. Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Commanding General Lt. Gen. James Rainey described Waypoint 2028 as “figuring out what we need the Army to look like in 2028 based on how we’re going to fight multi-domain operations.”
The 3rd U.K. Division from Belford, U.K., was a major training audience in Warfighter 21-4, executing its fourth overall participation effort with U.S. units in the last several years. Roughly 1,200 personnel from 3UK participated in the exercise from locations around the world, including Fort Hood, Fort Bliss and the U.K.
Their long journey to this exercise began more than a year ago, starting with low-level exercises that grew overtime in size and scale, culminating in the validation event called Exercise Cerberus that prepared the U.K. soldiers to be successful during Warfighter 21-4. The COVID-19 quarantine period prior to the exercise afforded 3UK with additional preparation time to create knowledgeable, coherent and efficient teams prior to mission start.
The 3rd French Division from Marseilles, France, was participating in a warfighter exercise for the first time. This increased the allied participation in this exercise and strengthened the ability to operate effectively with other NATO units. A French officer supporting the exercise said the exercise “demonstrates the importance of routine engagement between our armies in the interests of maintaining and building capabilities between nations.”
The 3rd French Division was able to overcome times of high tempo and pressure and turn challenges into lessons learned that strengthen the alliance. This concept was supported by the guidance from White, who stressed the importance of fighting with the Army’s combined partners.
“III Corps will continue to focus on shared understanding and how the multinational corps fight together,” White said.
Capt. Carlee Vernon, plans officer from the 36th Engineer Brigade at Fort Hood, commented on the importance of working with allied partners. In a previous unit, she supported Operation Atlantic Resolve in Europe, working shoulder to shoulder with NATO partners.
“It is good step to U.S. units and our 3rd French and 3rd U.K. partners augmenting each other with personnel and equipment. By identifying challenges during planning, we were able improve interoperability and synchronization during the exercise,” Vernon said.
The Army had high expectations going into Warfighter 21-4, and as a result, lessons learned from this competitive exercise will inform future joint and combined operations for years to come.