For nearly three weeks, approximately 1,200 military and civilian personnel gathered at Camp Aachen in Grafenwoehr, Germany, to conduct the four-tiered, combined NATO and USA exercise United Endeavor 14-1/ISAF Training Event 13-02. Training Audiences (TA) from NATO Standing HQs, US Corps and Individual Augmentees (IAs) from Troop Contributing Nations (TCNs) were trained to fill future staff positions within ISAF HQ, HQ IJC and RC-E in Afghanistan.
The purpose of the exercise was to prepare the TAs for their upcoming deployments to Afghanistan in early 2014. The TA were trained in staff processes they will be involved in once deployed in theatre ----- processes that are not necessarily known to them at their home units. Although six different HQs were trained, the main focus for the Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) was to deliver training to HQ ISAF and HQ IJC.
The JWC OPR (Officer of Primary Responsibility) for the exercise, Lieutenant Colonel Thor Randulff, summarizes the event from his viewpoint. “One of the great advantages of having all the TA here in Grafenwoehr is that personnel from different units and from different nations are able to build a team before deploying together in a few months. They get to know each other which again will reduce the time needed to get ready once in theatre. This exercise is the last opportunity for most staffs to train before deploying to Afghanistan.”
LTC Randulff underscored the importance of training as realistically as possible. “One factor has been the electronic environment. The electronic systems and practices that have been used during this exercise are based on a huge amount of data collected in ISAF just a few months ago, and then rebuilt into the exercise network. Consequently, the TA will train with systems and practices that are almost identical to those in Kabul.”
Another key to a successful delivery of training, are the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). A total of 90 SMEs participated in the exercise, of which 70 came directly from HQ ISAF and IJC, and 20 were recently redeployed personnel. In addition, 13 Afghans contributed as Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). SMEs are critical for the training, as they have the most up to date knowhow from theatre, which cannot be found elsewhere.
Exercise Co-Director, Major General Erhard Buehler, Commander JWC said that “the success depends heavily on the participation of the leadership in theatre. We were lucky both to have COM IJC with his most important Generals present in the exercise, and also the future leadership of IJC was almost completely present, together with the incoming Chief of Staff HQ ISAF.”
As NATO now is transforming its mission in Afghanistan, Major General Buehler said, “These are the last HQ’s we train for the ISAF mission as we know it today, and at the same time the incoming leadership for the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) that has the task to transform the ISAF to a new mission. This requires a different approach and different mindset from an operation HQ to a supporting HQ.”
In addition to Grafenwoehr, Response Cells and supporting commands were also operating from Fort Drum in New York, Suffolk in Virginia, Air Force Base Destin in Florida, and at the Joint Force Training Centre (JFTC) in Bydgoszcz, Poland. The importance of the transatlantic co-operation of this event was emphasized by Major General Buehler.
“It is actually an important part of the new NATO Strategic Concept, Connected Forces Initiative (CFI), as the main requirements of CFI are to ensure that Allies can communicate effectively, practice together, and validate and certify their ability to do so. The role of JWC, together with personnel from the US Joint Staff J7 and Mission Command Training Program (MCTP) and other training partners was primarily to facilitate the exercise, but also to script the Mission Rehearsal Exercise (MRX). JWC also had observers and analysts whose task was to determine if the training objectives were achieved. Most of the JWC planners have conducted several previous ISAF exercises with the Joint Staff J7 team, and this experience made both the planning and the execution of the event a smooth effort."
MG Buehler is not worried about his staff being short of work in the near future.
“As the ISAF TE 13-02 has come to an end, the JWC personnel are now redeploying back to Stavanger to get ready for the next exercise, which is STEADFAST JAZZ 13 mainly taking place in Poland and Latvia. This will be the biggest Collective Defence NATO exercise in years.”
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