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Thousands go to war during Austere Challenge 08

On May 5, 1300 staff officers and noncommissioned officers gathered at the Joint Multinational Training Command in Grafenwoehr and went to war. The war lasted nine days. It was a joint contingency operation with Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, and was distributed to the U.S., England, Germany, and Australia, as well as sailors at sea.
Working through computer simulation, the different components planned and executed large-scale, high intensity combat operations comparable to the initial U.S. operation in Iraq.

Austere Challenge 08, which was headquartered aboard the USS Mount Whitney, a naval flagship in the Mediterranean, marked the beginning of the 7th Army transformation, and certified the 7th Army's Operational Command Post as a Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command.
"This certification proves that this headquarters is trained and confident and certified, so that if (7th Army) goes to war, the leaders… are confident and able to command …they've done their training," said Maj. Derick Cowart, Joint Multi-national Simulation Center planner. The certification is part of an ongoing process to merge U.S. Army Europe and V Corps into a single 7th Army organization.

AC08 brought members of the merge together for the first time. "Although a majority of the force of the soldiers in the operational command post did come from V Corps, we (had) over 100 USAREUR staff officers here as well, and we have integrated officers from the 21st Theatre Sustainment Command," said Col. Eric Wagenaar, head of USAREUR exercise branch. "It was really a great opportunity to… start coming together as a team with an exercise to learn how the 7th Army is going to have to function in the future. We're learning to fight as an Army headquarters," Wagenaar said. The exercise gave the combined personnel an opportunity to develop standard operating procedures, tactics, techniques and procedures, and staff functions as well.

Prior to AC08, military staffing and function was done with a "G" staff system, where G-1 served as personnel, G-2 Intel, et cetera, with offices such as public affairs and protocol serving as "personal" or "special" staff. As 7th Army transforms, a new operational staff design was implemented with Operational Maneuver, Operational Effects, Operational Sustainment, and Operational Protection components. In this new staff design, related "G" staff offices will work together. One example of the new staff system is found in Operational Effects, which will be composed of the former G-3 and pieces of what was the special staff and personal staff.

Serving as a deployable headquarters marked another challenge in the transformation.
"It is very important for us to not just talk about transformation when it comes to our ability to deploy a 7th Army command post," Wagenaar said. "That is one of the big differences in the way we are structured right now. The Unites States Army Europe has a headquarters that doesn't deploy. We used to rely on the Corp and the divisions to deploy. When we transform into 7th Army, 7th Army Headquarters will actually have a mission to deploy to contingency operations. This is a first step in meeting that major transformation objective of being a deployable headquarters of 7th Army." Computer simulation made a deployable headquarters possible.
"From Charleston Air Force Base, we had flight crews get into flight simulators… as though they were flying to where they were going to deploy. The headquarters at Ramstein, aboard Mount Whitney, and here tracked them as though they were real," Cowart explained.

The flight and other simulations during AC08 made deployment possible without the expense normally associated with moving large amounts of people and equipment. "You can't train at this level without some very mature and robust simulations capability," Wagenaar explained. "The simulation is most important to stimulate the Army battle command systems. For the person that is in the command post, we're using the simulation to stimulate all the things they would use to fight in a real world situation to manage the battle command."

The real world simulations constitute only one aspect of this three-phase training.
Phase one began in January in Heidelberg and marked the first meeting of the 7th Army JFLCC staff. The staff received academic instruction and produced the operating procedure for the war fighting practice.
Phase two replicated the deployment phase and established an early entry command post in Grafenwoehr.
The third phase of the training was the execution or battle in which the EECP and OCP merged to conduct drills. This phase concluded last week.

The 7th Army's certification of the Operational Command Post CJFLCC is valid for three years.
The JMTC hosted AC08 at the Joint Multinational Simulations Center. The JMSC, a facility with state-of-the-art simulations capabilities provided personnel, equipment and facilities. As part of USAREUR transformation, the JMSC will help certify the operational command post as a joint capable expeditionary headquarters. These rehearsals replicate the contemporary operating environment, fully supporting the nation's commitment to NATO and the War on Terror.




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