CAMP CASEY, South Korea - More than 80 members of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division staff recently participated in the Warpath exercise in the Republic of Korea as a subordinate brigade to the 2nd Infantry Division.
The brigade staff not only tested its ability to deploy within the Pacific region and employ mission-command procedures to accomplish tactical objectives from a higher headquarters, it was also the test bed for the Army’s future construct of the Army 2020 implementing the new Stryker Brigade Combat Team structure, as well as the Reconnaissance and Security Brigade Combat Team concept.
For the past two years, 1/25 SBCT has shifted its focus from regular rotations into Iraq and Afghanistan and realigned with what the commander in chief has said the Security Strategy would be: focusing on the Pacific Region, providing regionally-aligned units that are prepared to rapidly deploy and being capable of responding to conflict globally.
The Warpath exercise was intended to test the 2nd ID’s mission command strategies. The scenario within the digital exercise involved the defense of the ROK. The exercise is a biennial event that often draws specialized units from outside the Korean Peninsula in to practice how the 2nd ID would integrate outside units should the need arise. Though the exercise is a digital simulations exercise, the scenarios are very real.
“We are participating in an exercise we could very well have to fight,” said Col. Brian Reed, 1/25 SBCT commander, to his staff as they discussed various courses of action throughout the training exercise.
Though 1/25 SBCT did not actually have to defend against a real attack, the 1/25 SBCT staff showed its ability to adapt to the new organization of the Army Capabilities and Integration Center-proposed R&S BCT, the complex challenges of conducting combined mission command with an international partner, and the nuances of executing both the high intensity conflict and counter insurgency operations.
“[1/25 SBCT] challenged mission-command elements by distance, coordination with coalition forces, and operating as an Army 2020 concept unit for the first time,” said Brig. Gen. Paul Laughlin, deputy commanding general maneuver 2nd ID, to the members of 1/25 SBCT that worked to grasp ROK and 2nd ID operations while defining themselves as a new R&S BCT during the 2013 Warpath exercise. “[And] you have enthusiastically embraced this.”
The Army has announced its plans to prepare for the year 2020 and beyond by changing some of its formations beginning in 2015 in order to balance costs in equipment and manpower with the ability to bridge maneuver and mobility gaps in the formations.
As a trial run for the proposed R&S BCT, 1/25 SBCT was asked to align its missions and task organization for the Warpath exercise as an R&S BCT and execute 2nd ID missions as such, then provide feedback to ARCIC on both the shortfalls and benefits with the new conscript.
“The training exercise allowed us to simulate and test our ability to conduct collection activities, enhancing intelligence assets at the division and higher echelons while still having the ability to engage and win against an enemy force,” said Lt. Col. John Brown, Capabilities Development Integration Directorate Chief of Concepts Development Branch.
In addition to raw data generated by the exercise itself, staff members from 1/25 SBCT and the 2nd ID provided ARCIC representatives with an after-action review and comments in measurements, as well as, candid feedback throughout the Warpath exercise. Efforts of 1/25 SBCT staff during the exercise and comments may very well help shape the Army of 2020.
In addition to helping the 2nd ID achieve mission success on the Korean Peninsula and shaping future battlefields for ARCIC, the staff members of 1/25 SBCT were able to learn as a group and take some lessons learned back home to Alaska.
“This was a great learning opportunity for staff,” said Reed. “By day two, the staff was already growing by leaps and bounds, conducting mission command within the brigade as well as coordinating and integrating with our partners’ mission command efforts.”
Not only did 1/25 SBCT leaders and planners gain some insight and experience from the overseas exercise, but the junior Soldiers that help make a functioning operations center also had the opportunity to learn and grow from the new experience.
Pfc. Michael Otey, an indirect-fire coordination specialist from St. Louis, said, “After going through this exercise, I have a better understanding of the Army’s structure in a combined-arms conflict and how it fights.”