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BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — Top-level Army trainers are trying to look into a crystal ball to create a work-up package for troops headed to an Afghanistan that doesn’t exist yet.

A 10-man team from the Hohenfels, Germany-based Combat Maneuver Training Center has been dispatched to Afghanistan to figure out the kind of conditions the next rotation of forces into the combat zone might find there.

“We’ve come over here to check out the area so that we can a build realistic and relevant training package for follow-on forces,” said Lt. Col. Knowles Atchison, a senior observer-controller for the training center.

The group will lead the training for the Italy-based Southern European Task Force in coming months as the unit prepares to take over command of the Afghanistan mission from the 25th Infantry Division this spring.

But in a combat zone, a lot can happen in just a few months. Just ask the 1st Infantry Division.

Troops from the 1st ID were at the training center last October for their deployment into Iraq in March. The training in Germany was almost up-to-the-minute, with troops facing scenarios that replicated incidents that had occurred in Iraq the day before.

But by the time troops arrived into the war zone, many complained much of what they’d learned in Germany had become outdated.

Training center officials have taken the criticism to heart and are trying to adapt training.

“We were training a lot of unnecessary and outdated stuff,” said Sgt. Maj. Fernando Torres, another trainer now in Afghanistan. “Unfortunately, we were not current to the actual missions troops were facing. We have to be more up-to-date.”

But with a constantly adapting enemy, that’s easier said than done.

“What’s going on here in Afghanistan even right now is not necessarily going to be relevant six months from now,” said Lt. Col Jack Bone, the top aviation trainer at CMTC.

“The bad guys’ [tactics, techniques and procedures] are maturing,” added Lt. Col. Chris Delarosa, the center’s operations officer. “Every day, they’re learning and adapting to our countermeasures.”

With SETAF slated for its rotation at the training center in September and October, but not deploying into Afghanistan until March and April, that makes for an interesting dilemma for the trainers.

“We don’t want our training to replicate what’s going on here today,” said Capt. Eric Remoy, “because that’s probably not going to be what units face.”

An intelligence officer for the training center, it’s Remoy’s job to help divine what Afghanistan will look like once the unit arrives.

“Right now there’s no assessment out there on what it’s going to be like nine months from now,” said Remoy, “at least none that I can get my hands on.”

So the trainers are building their own assessments by talking to troops and leaders on the ground to help them gauge where things might be going in the coming months.

With presidential and parliamentary elections slated between now and then, plus factional fighting on the rise and an increasingly aggressive insurgency, there are a lot of variables to factor into the training.

“We’re never going to duplicate what troops experience,” said Bone. “It’s never going to be exactly what they find once they hit the ground.”

That’s why as much as they hope to build realistic scenarios for units, the trainers also are trying to find ways to help soldiers adapt to the combat zone on their own.

“We’re trying to get away from what to think and more towards how to think,” said Lt. Col. Eric Nantz, the chief maneuver trainer.

“There are no checklists now,” he said, troops have to learn it’s up to them to stay one step ahead of the enemy.”

“Soldiers must accept responsibility to think on their feet,” added Atchison. “Because that’s exactly what the enemy is doing.”


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