III Corps fights, wins in warfighter exercise

Soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, deploy an Expeditionary Tactical Command Post via CH-47 Chinook sling load March 29, as part of the III Corps Warfighter Exercise. Army leaders are developing and field-testing future command post options that are more mobile, survivable and effective in expeditionary settings. Photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Tucker, III Corps.

Soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, deploy an Expeditionary Tactical Command Post via CH-47 Chinook sling load March 29, as part of the III Corps Warfighter Exercise. Army leaders are developing and field-testing future command post options that are more mobile, survivable and effective in expeditionary settings. Photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Tucker, III Corps.

By Col. Thomas Veale, III Corps PAO:

FORT HOOD, Texas – III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk and his team won the war in Atropia.

Funk commanded Combined Joint Task Force – Caspian, or CJTF-C, in Operation Courageous Hammer, a war simulation based on a fictitious scenario designed to exercise staff functions in preparation for deployment anywhere, anytime.

“We are America’s Hammer, and if called, we’re ready,” Funk said at a recent gathering of the CJTF staff, its observers and mentors.

The III Corps staff at Fort Hood forms the nucleus of the CJTF-C headquarters, and the exercise included units from Fort Stewart, Georgia; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; and other military installations around the country. Despite coming from different commands to join the CJTF, the commander stressed unity above all.

The exercise scenario involved the staging of the CJTF in a friendly nation at a time of political tension, and the situation develops into a combat operation following an invasion by a hostile neighbor. The CJTF staff had to deploy, integrate subordinate units, conduct detailed planning and commence offensive operations once hostilities begin. The scenario required the CJTF staff to plan and execute operations in the air and on the ground, including precision air and artillery strikes, engineer operations to include a river crossing, logistics, communication, host-nation coordination, work with the U.S. embassy and interagency partners and various other challenges found in real wartime situations.

Because the exercise was run from various locations without hardstand buildings and readily available utilities such as power and running water, the corps practiced its ability to establish command posts with generator power, mess services and other life-support activities taken for granted at home station.

To enhance the headquarters’ effectiveness and demonstrate its mobility in an austere environment, III Corps deployed an Expeditionary Tactical Command post by helicopter on March 28-29.

On April 5, Funk flew by helicopter to North Fort Hood, approximately 35 miles to the north of the main cantonment area, and deployed a ground mobile tactical command post utilizing Stryker combat vehicles from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, a III Corps asset. The ETAC and the Stryker configurations are new developments in III Corps’ ability to move, fight and communicate on the modern battlefield.

Another new development is III Corps’ integration of the Army’s new Main Command Post-Operational Detachment, or MCP-OD concept. The MCP-OD was established in October to bolster the corps staff in the event of a deployment. Many of the corps-aligned Army Reservists who would deploy with III Corps in the event of a real-world deployment are currently participating in the exercise at Fort Hood. The teams are integrated with the staff and building a solid foundation of teamwork within the CJTF.

Over a two-week period, the staff have faced various challenges driven by a training team from the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Trainers, advisors and mentors from around the country will contribute to a realistic, event-driven scenario that forces the CJTF to develop staff processes, relationships and an increasing level of flexibility and responsiveness in a dynamic combat environment.

Speaking by video teleconference to the staff at the mid-exercise review, April 7, Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams, commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command, commented on how quickly Funk formed and employed the CJTF.

“We’re pretty far along for only being seven days into General Funk’s command,” he said. “The warfighter exercise is a great opportunity to increase our shared understanding: staff-to-staff, and commander-to-commander.”

Also speaking by video teleconference link, U.S. Central Command commander, Gen. Joseph Votel remarked on the importance of the warfighter exercise.

“You’re building a team that is going to deal with the most complex environments,” Votel said. “I hope you’re getting a good workout in this exercise …We’re adding layers of complexity to what is already a complex scenario.”

The warfighter exercise is a routine requirement for Army divisions and corps. III Corps’ last warfighter as a training audience was in early 2015 before the corps deployed to Iraq and Kuwait for Operation Inherent Resolve, a mission III Corps led from September 2015 to August 2016. Exercises such as Warfighter 17-04, Operation Courageous Hammer, underscore the need for training from the Soldier level up to the highest operational commands.

Speaking to the collective staff in the presence of trainers, mentors and joint partners at the mid-exercise review, Funk stressed the need to develop relationships, systems and processes that enhance operational effectiveness and a common operating picture.

“The shared understanding piece is so important,” Funk said. “Shared understanding is a requirement to ensure success on the battlefield against an agile, adaptive enemy such as those we face in current operations, and those replicated in the exercise.”

“They don’t fight like we do,” added retired Gen. David B. McKiernan, who was at Fort Hood as senior mentor for the exercise. McKiernan retired in 2009 after serving as commander, International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

When III Corps completed Operation Courageous Hammer on April 12, Funk was formally promoted to lieutenant general and accepted the III Corps colors from Lt. Gen. Sean B. MacFarland, former Fort Bliss commanding general, at ceremonies presided over by Abrams.


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