Army bolstering its ability to learn, teach lessons from the battlefield
HEIDELBERG, Germany — As daily fighting continues in Iraq, the Army is expanding its ability to capture lessons from the war — both for units preparing to head to the combat zone as well as real-time feedback for those in the middle of the fight.
Lt. Gen. William Wallace, the man who led the ground invasion into Iraq as the V Corps commander, told a at the Army’s Land Combat Expo in Heidelberg on Tuesday that he is increasing the Center for Lessons Learned.
Now commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Wallace told Stars and Stripes he’s adding about 30 analysts to the staff and putting a general officer, or civilian equivalent, in charge of the Army’s in-house think tank tasked with culling practical tactics, tips and tricks from the battlefield and sharing them with the rest of the service.
“We do a good job of that at the tactical level,” said Wallace, “but we need to do more at the operational and strategic level, looking at things like how a corps headquarters turns into a joint task force while still engaging the enemy.”
That’s exactly what was going on when Wallace turned over the reigns of V Corps to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez in the summer of 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Meanwhile, Wallace said he’s building plans to start sending evaluators from the Army’s three main training facilities — the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., and the Combat Maneuver Training Center in Germany — out into the field for on-the-spot feedback to combat units.
For years, the Army has used observer-controllers, or O-Cs, at training centers to serve as part coaches and part evaluators as units rotated through weeks-long combat simulations. The cornerstone of those exercises are periodic “after-action reviews” where O-Cs and troops at all levels dissect what was done right and wrong and ways to improve.
“When you’re in the middle of a fight, it’s hard to take a few steps back like that,” said Wallace. “But that’s the way we train, so why can’t we apply that culture to the war?”
As far as Wallace is concerned there’s no reason not to.
“I think commanders would relish the notion of having some one there to help them get better,” he said.
Plus, he added, by rotating O-Cs out into the combat zone “they’ll bring more up-to-date view of the battlefield back to the training centers.”