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Navy Expeditionary Combat Command

NECC participates in Bold Quest experimentation
By CHIPS Magazine - January-March 2013

The eighth annual Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment Bold Quest began on September 17, 2012 at Fort Benning, Ga. AEWE addresses live, prototype experimentation requirements with a primary focus on the Soldier and small unit, examining emerging capabilities and concepts for the current and future force across all warfighting functions. AEWE-BQ12 set a new precedent by inviting Joint Staff to take part in this year’s exercise, in turn, welcoming Commander, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command to participate as an observer.

CHIPS staff caught up with COMNECC subject matter experts in early December who responded in writing to questions about COMNECC participation in BQ12.

Q: Can you discuss your role as observer?

A: COMNECC was approached by the Joint Staff earlier this year about participating in the Bold Quest series of experimentation. Although major portions of the experiment revolve around combat identification, there are significant pieces that are service driven. BQ 12-2, marked the first-ever integration of this joint/coalition assessment process with the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE). As such, the BQ coalition of U.S. and allied participants were afforded a unique, front row view of key initiatives fundamental to the Army’s Squad: Foundation of the Decisive Force concept; they gained insights into the human dimension and leader development elements of the squad.

The heavy emphasis of small unit experimentation was appealing to NECC and had a direct relationship to similar Navy small units such as Navy EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) platoons, boat crews, intelligence detachments, construction detachments and civil Aaffairs teams.

We saw this exercise as an opportunity to gain insight into multiple processes. First, it was an opportunity to observe the planning and execution involved with an experiment of this size and nature. If NECC has plans to conduct a similar experiment, then this exercise was the opportunity to capture best practices for experimentation. Second, this venue introduced a multitude of small unit concepts and technologies that are not emphasized elsewhere in the Navy’s training strategy. There were concepts related to improving situational awareness and decision making combined with virtual technologies designed to immerse users in a realistic scenario that replicates the deployed environment.

The goal of the virtual immersion is to provide users with repeatable scenarios that will inform future decision-making for individuals when confronted with similar scenarios in the joint operating environment. Most virtual trainers used by the Navy are designed for ships and aircraft. For NECC, our virtual training requirements are more aligned with the Army and Marine Corps with an added dose of maritime flavor. COMNECC’s attendance at Fort Benning was designed to gain insight into other service’s training concepts and technologies and to examine how these may work to prepare Sailors for similar tasks in a maritime environment.

Q: Among the training modules presented at Bold Quest, which do you think will be most useful to the Navy?

A: The most promising observation was a concept called ASAT — Advance Situational Awareness Trainer. ASAT is a combat situational awareness training approach developed by Orbis Operations, LLC and modeled after the Marine Corps’s Combat Hunter program. The goal of ASAT is to provide students with the physical and mental ability to recognize threats in a combat environment with a focus on urban terrain.

ASAT employs a combination of pattern recognition, experiential learning, law enforcement techniques, military tactics, and other approaches to improve sense making and tactical decision-making. The instructor delivery techniques were a major factor in knowledge transfer during the classroom iteration. Although instruction included complex topics based on philosophy (logic), sociology and psychology, the delivery method was tailored to the training audience (Army’s Squad) and appeared to be effective. This capability could appeal to expeditionary forces if the baseline was re-centered on the maritime environment.

Also, this capability aligns with the Navy’s effort in Maritime Infrastructure Protection and Confronting Irregular Challenges by emphasizing the human dimension of training. A version of ASAT tailored to NECC’s diverse maritime and ground forces (Coastal Riverine Force/CRF, Explosive Ordnance Disposal/EOD, Naval Construction Force/NCF, Navy Expeditionary Intelligence Command/NEIC, Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training Command/MCASTC, and Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group/NAVELSG), integrated with other live and virtual training efforts would significantly enhance the combat readiness of our forces.

Q: Do you know when the Navy will have the opportunity to use the virtual training demonstrated at the AEWE Bold Quest event?

A: The Navy and COMNECC continue to pursue simulation and synthetic training in order to deliver better and more effective integrated training. During the exercise, some of the virtual training was used as a demonstration, while other efforts are funded service programs of record. The first step in any procurement process is to make sure that the problem is identified and clearly articulated.

COMNECC has drafted a synthetic training strategy that outlines efforts to integrate live, virtual and constructive training initiatives for expeditionary forces. This draft strategy has highlighted the need to further develop a simulation master plan that drives future requirement and resourcing decisions for emerging training technologies and concepts like the ones demonstrated at Fort Benning. Once these processes are in place, COMNECC can better decide on our use of current and future training technologies and the mechanisms required to sustain the chain of live, virtual and constructive training efforts.

Q: How does the Navy conduct training now and can you explain how virtual training may replace or enhance the training that the Navy currently uses?

A: COMNECC Commander, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command is aligned with other Type Commands (TYCOMs) and delivers training based on the Fleet Training Continuum and the Fleet Response Plan. Based on the Fleet Response Training Plan, live, virtual and constructive training is conducted throughout each phase as separate or integrated functions. The end state of the FRTP is readied and prepared forces as emphasized in the recently issued U.S. Fleet Forces Command Vision Guidance (October, 2012).

COMNECC’s current approach to training demands the integration of a mix of requirements to include: expeditionary core skills training; required operational capability training; general military training; theater specific training, to include language and culture training; and mission essential training. Additionally, expeditionary forces are more likely to confront irregular mission sets; therefore, [they] are prepared beyond the basic Navy crew standards for deployment.

In order to meet these competing requirements, training is conducted at the individual and unit level throughout the FRTP. Individual training is normally evaluated at the lower command level, while unit or collective training is evaluated at higher levels to include TYCOM (type commander) certification during the integrated phase of the FRTP.

Training in a live environment offers the highest degree of human interaction and experience. This factor is important when training scenarios are designed around counterinsurgency, security force assistance, maritime security and other irregular mission sets that require more use of the human dimension of warfighting and decision making at lower levels. NECC’s current FRTP does include several simulated and constructive training technologies, but we would like to see an increase in training systems related to support of irregular mission sets and expeditionary force requirements.

Although simulated training cannot replace live training, it does provide many advantages for both individual and collective training. First, it offers the ability to conduct multiple iterations of tactical scenarios for individual and small unit training. This provides the training audience the ability to learn through 'new' experiences and develops a database of practical knowledge that can be recalled in time of conflict.

Second, simulated and immersive training offers a cost-effective means to introduce environmental characteristics into the training environment such as civilians on the battlefield, multidimensional terrain displays, sights, sounds and smells that are more expensive to replicate in a live environment. There is still much work to be done in these areas, but we foresee simulated and immersive training as the standard for major portions of military training in the next 20 years. The key is finding the right mix and ensuring that they are properly synchronized within the entire training spectrum.

Q: I understand that 2012 is the first year that NECC was invited to attend Bold Quest. Are there plans for the Navy to be more hands-on at the next Bold Quest?

A: Fleet Forces Command has been a participant in past BQ events focused on combat ID and is currently involved with the 2013 planning. NECC has made plans to be an active participant in the BQ-13 events. Next year’s participation will be small in scope and will highlight COMNECC’s capabilities to provide operational support through digitally aided close air support (DACAS) technology. This event was timely and was easily integrated into the planning cycle.

Based on lessons learned from observations at Fort Benning, COMNECC will need to properly position resources to adequately pursue similar virtual training efforts demonstrated by the Army. This includes all of the administrative and logistical considerations for experimentation such as: experimental force, analysis team, ranges and training areas, and contract administration. Our goal is continued participation in the Bold Quest series and to ramp up our participation level each year. More emphasis on simulation at the tactical and operational levels is needed for expeditionary forces and NECC is working to align simulation resources comparable to other TYCOMs. Bold Quest offers an excellent venue for continued experimentation in this effort.

Navy Expeditionary Combat Command

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