The following article is republished with the permission of Seapower Magazine, the official publication of the Navy League of the United States.
Realistic and focused training for NATO forces can take place in an alternate world, but one that can challenge and prepare them to respond to real-world contingencies.
NATO exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2018, which will take place in October and November, is designed to test the collective defence of the Alliance. TRIDENT JUNCTURE will have about 40,000 participants along with more than 60 ships and 10,000 vehicles from more than 30 countries, including a 5,000-person Spearhead Force known as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, conducting a live exercise in Norway.
The exercise is based on an elaborate but artificial "reality" created at the NATO Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) in Stavanger, Norway, which provides training for the full spectrum of joint operational-level warfare to prepare NATO Command and Force Structure headquarters for any operational challenges they may face.
The JWC is a multinational and multiservice NATO organization with more than 250 military and civilian personnel from 15 NATO Nations: Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
JWC creates and develops operational-level synthetic training for NATO, including fictitious settings and scenarios to support current and future exercises to simulate the threats the NATO Alliance faces, and integrates transformational activities into those exercises.
U.S. Navy officers are playing a vital role at JWC to deliver the training. Cmdr. Robert Stover, a surface warfare officer, leads a core team that writes scenarios for exercises like TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2018.
"Every exercise has its own design requirements to meet the various training objectives. I’m a project manager for a bunch of ‘Tom Clancy writers’ with specialties in friendly and opposing actor socio-economics, political strategy, military doctrine and military structure, geo-spatial products, who create an alternate but believable universe. Our team focuses on the ‘red’ or the opposing forces — the antagonist to NATO forces," he said.
"For TRIDENT JUNCTURE '18, we created realistic but fictional geography, orders of battle and political constructs. We create the history of how the opposing forces were developed, the political, military, economic, social, information and infrastructure aspects of this other country or countries, and the culture that we’ve developed for them. You get to learn everything about the personalities of their president, all the way down to what sort of armaments and capabilities they have in the military realm, to what sort of organized crime or cyber capabilities that they might have."
With this opposing force pitted against the Alliance, the NATO command and control structure is exposed to and tested by the operational level of war.
"We focus on the operational level here at JWC, but also reflect the strategic and military/political influences and challenges up the chain of command," Stover said. "We also have to have the tactical play, such as detailed unit actions during the Command Post Exercise, which support the operational level of play. So we are playing up and down to focus on the middle.
"It’s not about winning or losing," he said. "We provide an opportunity for training. The Training Audience sets their own training objectives, and we design the exercise, and what’s going to happen in the exercise, in the execution, based on those training objectives."
The actual exercise is just a 10-day snapshot of a much larger conflict, and the training includes the work up and build up to conflict, as well as the various phases of the operation. In those 10 days at the operational level, there is not enough time to win or lose a conflict. A campaign scenario may have been going on a long time, and the exercise might focus more on sustainment, or the resolve of individual countries who are contributing forces to the conflict.
"In the design of the exercises, we can pick where we want to place the Training Audience inside this timeline," Stover said.
The training can be both live and synthetic.
"A live exercise is very tactical. It’s also scripted because you have, for instance, tanks on either side of a valley that have to meet in the middle at a given time in order for the exercise to happen, because it’s live forces," Stover said. "With the computer-aided Command Post Exercise, however, we build these events in with the flexibility where the Training Audience can make mistakes, or they can do very well. I call it ‘design your own adventure.’ It all goes to feeding those training opportunities for them so that they can see where they have some capacity for growth, or that they’re doing very well."
In addition to training, JWC provides analysis to support doctrinal, capability and concept development at the appropriate level in order to improve NATO’s operational readiness and interoperability.
Guardian of NATO's Doctrine
Rear Adm. John B. "Brad" Skillman was the JWC Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff, before assuming command of Expeditionary Strike Group 2, which will participate in the live training phase of TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2018.
"JWC is not just an exercise centre. It’s a warfare centre able to insert lessons learned from NATO exercises into doctrine development, too. To provide training at the operational level, JWC has to control the strategic level and the tactical level, and provide input up and down. So JWC is constantly inputting to provide the Training Audience with catalysts to get them to make decisions and take action.
"JWC looks at itself very much as the guardian of NATO’s doctrine and standard. If you have all of your commands rotating through an exercise using a consistent provider, all based on NATO doctrine, you should be able to say that, at the end of that, those staffs should be relatively consistent," Skillman said.
That goes for terminology, too.
"When we’re thinking collective defence, and big, multicorps, multibattle group exercises, every time you say something it needs to be very exact. You need to use the doctrine, and we have to use exact language. It’s even more acute when you have non-native English speakers and you’re not using the doctrinal language," he said.
Cmdr. Shannon Wells, another U.S. Navy surface warfare officer at JWC, is assigned to the Doctrine Support Branch.
"NATO promulgates doctrine on land ops, maritime ops, amphibious ops, intelligence, logistics — in all the major areas — and there’s an ongoing process to update doctrine on a three- to five-year cycle. We use our exercises to test NATO doctrine and to validate the doctrine that was recently published," Wells said. "We also go out to the exercises and talk with the Training Audience, and try to identify any situations where doctrine doesn’t provide coverage, or contradicts itself with other pieces of NATO doctrine.
"We’re out and about with the Training Audience, either with forces that are deployed or here at the Centre during the Phase 3 Bravo, which is the execution phase," Wells said.
The "execution phase" is very visible. But, according to Cmdr. Patrick Boyce, an E-2 Hawkeye naval flight officer and the deputy officer of primary responsibility for TRIDENT JAGUAR 2018, a JWC exercise that was held in May, the planning begins 18 months before the execution phase. The training teams work closely with the headquarters for the Training Audience. Workshops are held where the overall strategy is developed, followed by scripting, where the "injects" are developed to create a whole playbook that is then carried out during the execution phase.
The scripters develop multiple complex operational-level incidents covering all domains, including land, air, maritime, space, cyberspace, hybrid and information environments, as part of the fictitious scenario.
"I think of my job as project manager for the exercise," Boyce said. "It’s important early on that we set up the play and the design and the execution for the whole 18-month exercise planning process. At the operational planning level, we want to make sure we have the resources, logistics and the vision and the coordination between the component commanders for air, maritime, Special Forces and everybody that we’re going to integrate.
"That’s all done in the Crisis Response Planning phase, and it can make or break an exercise. I work with the other teams throughout the Joint Warfare Centre, such as our training and doctrine teams that design the Master Events Lists for how we’re going to execute the exercise. They become more and more involved as we get into the actual exercise," he said.
Cmdr. George Wright, a naval flight officer with a background in the maritime patrol community, is part of the JWC Training Team.
"We embed ourselves with the parts of the staff that is related to our specific background and area of expertise, and we help out with the Training Audience. We’re the eyes and ears of the center on how the exercise is going with respect to whether or not the identified training objectives will be met with the Training Audience."
Wright said his team doesn’t grade how well the operational plan would win the war. Instead, they are looking at their process.
"Were they doing the right briefs? Were they talking and coordinating with the right NGO [nongovernmental organization]? Did the commander provide the right direction and guidance to the component commands? Was that direction effective? Was their communication back and forth adequate?"
Solidarity and Strength
TRIDENT JUNCTURE will not only test NATO’s ability to train and operate together, it will also test the Alliance’s ability to operate in cold weather and difficult terrain.
It is NATO’s largest military exercise since 2002 — with forces from all 29 NATO Members and Partner Nations Sweden and Finland — and the largest military exercise in Norway in decades.
"It is very important for NATO to show that it is ready to defend and deter in any geographic part of the Alliance — whether it be in North America or here in Europe. And so we bring 40,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, over 60 ships and about 130 aircraft into the exercise," said Adm. James G. Foggo III, Commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples/U.S. Naval Forces Europe/U.S. Naval Forces Africa. "Norway is a very important member of the Alliance, strategically located in the North Atlantic."
For the host nation, Norway is all in. The exercise tests the country’s ability to receive and handle additional troops and equipment, as well as an opportunity for its military to test Norway’s Total Defence Concept, which involves military forces and a wide range of civilian departments and authorities.
"If we do well and show that we got what it takes, it will strengthen the credibility of Norwegian defence and NATO cooperation," said Bruun-Hanssen in February. "We hope that this exercise will demonstrate the solidarity and strength within NATO."
"We learn how to operate on a rocky coast, which is a little more difficult for amphibious landings, and we learn how to operate in cold or foul weather. It is very important to be versatile for any military force that is going to operate anywhere in the world, like NATO could if necessary. It will also give us an opportunity to train in weather that is different," Foggo said.
"NATO is a defensive Alliance," he said. "So we’re never looking for a fight. But we are committed to defense and deterrence. TRIDENT JUNCTURE is an opportunity to train to defend and provide a deterrent effect. We’re ready to respond to any threat, from any direction at any time. That’s what this exercise is all about."
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