News: AWG bolsters Army's capability to limit threats
Story by Maj. Sonise Lumbaca
FORT MEADE, Md. - With its unique mission and capability, the U.S. Army Asymmetric Warfare Group unfurled its flag at Fort Meade in March, 2006. Five years later, AWG has firmly established itself as the Army's focal point for identifying current and emerging asymmetric threats, enemy vulnerabilities and friendly capability gaps through firsthand observations.
AWG provides operational advisory assistance in support of Army and Joint Force Commanders to enhance the combat effectiveness of the operating force and enable the defeat of asymmetric threats.
A generally accepted definition of "asymmetric warfare" is warfare between two opposing forces where one military power significantly differs from the other and each attempts to exploit the other's vulnerabilities through various means of lethal and nonlethal force. Examples of asymmetric threats include the use of improvised explosive devices, kidnappings and infrastructure attacks.
"Our capabilities allow us to rapidly observe and analyze, assess and develop, and disseminate and integrate various solutions across the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities spectrum in order to mitigate asymmetric threats," said Col. James M. Mis, the commander of AWG. "Because of our firsthand observations and a robust reach-back capability to a variety of problem-solvers and solution-development processes, we are able to deliver solutions rapidly to assist the warfighter on the ground, while at the same time propose enduring solutions to the Army."
AWG's operational advisory assistance to the warfighters occurs before, during and after a unit's deployment. Operational advisors are embedded and provide firsthand observation of friendly capability gaps, best practices and enemy tactics, techniques and procedures. Additionally, AWG solutions, friendly TTPs and best practices are disseminated across the Army to thwart and mitigate current and emerging threats across the globe. The ultimate goal is to gain an advantage over the enemy.
"AWG operational advisers assist units in thinking like the current enemy, as well as looking at emerging threats around the globe," said Master Sgt. David Gonzalez, an operational advisor. "We are fighting an enemy that is flexible, fast and adaptive, so we observe how they would exploit a unit's current TTPs."
"As an outside set of eyes, we deploy our teams globally to observe and analyze information about current and emerging asymmetric threats and how to position and pre-position countermeasures," said Lt. Col. Thomas Goldner, one of two Operational Advisor Squadron commanders. "These observations are analyzed and disseminated through our forward operating elements that are globally postured in support of the Army."
The AWG takes these observations and directly informs the units, institutional Army, Department of Defense agencies and interagency partners to enhance their ability to meet the needs of the operating environments, Goldner said.
"This allows us to mitigate operational and tactical near-term risk by anticipating emerging threats and developing solutions to capability gap," he added.
"We take those observations and through a rapid solution development process provide timely and relevant recommendations to the warfighter," said Lt. Col. Eric McFadden, the Concepts and Integration Squadron commander. "Many of these best practices are conveyed in the form of a Tactical Pocket Reference guide, a tool for units to reference when it comes to engaging or mitigating a specific type of threat."
While the AWG strives to change the way soldiers see and solve problems, when appropriate it develops prototype solutions to assist the Army in filling capability gaps.
"The AWG does not equip, but through our partnership with the Rapid Equipping Force and other rapid acquisition and equipping entities, we assist in the migrations of solutions to the warfighters, as well as the development of long-term, enduring solutions," McFadden said. "Some of these solutions are migrated and adapted from existing commercial off-the-shelf items while others may be prototypes, which will go through both stateside and overseas assessments."
An example of a solution the AWG created and developed for current and emerging threats is the Asymmetric Warfare Adaptive Leader Program. Headed by the AWG's Training Squadron, AWALP was designed to enhance adaptability in leaders and promote innovative solutions to problem sets in training and full-spectrum operations. The 10-day program runs quarterly at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
"Prior to deploying, a unit can select and send a small group of leaders to participate in AWALP," said Lt. Col. Blakeslee Connors, the squadron commander. "Using a variety of scenarios and training events, our instructors assist those leaders in solving problems in an adaptive manner, integrate that mindset into unit training, and improving their understanding of individual and team adaptability in a variety of environments."
What type of personnel does it take to run a unique unit like this with a complex mission?
"A unit comprised of soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and contracted subject matter experts who come to us with vast backgrounds and expertise involving various kinds of threats seen on the battlefield today," said Command Sgt. Major Michael Akridge, the group's command sergeant major.
Looking back over the last five years, the AWG has and continues to evolve into an organization that enhances the capabilities of the warfighters by making them more adept at attacking enemy vulnerabilities. AWG is also gaining insight in both current and emerging threats across the globe to assist the Army in understanding current and potentially future operating environments.
"The AWG has and will continue to make a difference in the Army," Mis said. "We as an Army must be prepared to rapidly adapt to emerging threats and defeat them, rather than be reactive and place ourselves where our enemies want us. We will do this with our partners within the Army, other services and the interagency who seek the same goal."