THEATER IMMERSION TRAINING

BY Karen Bradshaw, First Army Public Affairs staff.

Army News Service, Nov. 2, 2004 - “Train as you would fight” has long been an axiom in the Army and First Army plans to improve the training of its Soldiers to realistically reflect they are warriors first.

Lt. Gen. Russell L. Honoré, commanding general First U.S. Army, shared that training vision with leaders at the First U.S. Army Commander's Conference at Atlanta in mid-October.

“We are in a war with no rear areas or front lines,” Honoré said. “We have to instill the Warrior Ethos into the mobilized Soldiers we train. Every Soldier must be able to function as an Infantryman. Soldiers must have tough, realistic, hands-on, repetitive training until their response is intuitive.”

He aims to accomplish this with what he calls “theater immersion” training. “When Soldiers get off the bus at the mobilization station, they must feel they have arrived in Iraq or Afghanistan,” Honoré said.

Instead of living in a normal garrison environment, Soldiers will see concertina wire, entry control points, and guard towers to simulate the Forward Operating Base environment.

“In an FOB, small unit leaders not only train on theater-specific tasks,” Honoré said, “they have an opportunity to exercise their troop-leading procedures and basic discipline on a continuous basis.”

Since time is limited at the mobilization station, immediately immersing Soldiers into a replicated combat zone enables focused training 24-hours-a-day, and retraining can take place as needed.

“We can repeatedly train Soldiers on multiple tasks. For example, a single simulated mortar attack trains react to indirect fire, casualty evacuation procedures and 9-line MEDEVAC, damage assessment, counter-battery fire and many other procedures they might never get the chance to practice more than once,” said Col. Christian de Graf, 2nd Brigade commander, 87th Division (Training Support).

Theater immersion training also means training events can occur when least expected.

“In Iraq, a mortar or an IED can hit at anytime — not just during scheduled training periods. We can train the Soldiers the way they will fight and the theater immersion concept allows us to do that,” said Col. Daniel Zajac, 3rd Brigade commander, 87th Division. “The standard for how we train Soldiers comes from the theater. We are constantly adjusting our training based on current operations in theater. The theater immersion concept provides the flexibility to do that real time.”

The new training method will also allow leaders to more easily adjust
training as needed.

“Theater immersion is a dynamic training approach that gives us greater flexibility to train Soldiers. With theater immersion we can create more events, longer events, ramp up the volume or turn it down based on the training needs of Soldiers and units,” said Col. Al Jones, First U.S. Army deputy chief of staff for Operations. “Our goal is that Soldiers respond to threats intuitively, regardless of the situation in which they might find themselves.”

“We have a non-negotiable contract with the American people to prepare her sons and daughters for war,” Honoré said. “We must use imagination and innovation to do this better than we ever have before. We can not, we will not fail in this task.”