Army plans to ramp up rotations to US, Germany combat centers

American soldiers speed toward their objective in a Stryker during Exercise Saber Junction in Hohenfels, Germany, in 2017. Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, said Wednesday a push is under way to send more units to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Ca. and the similar center in Hohenfels.


By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 17, 2019

STUTTGART, Germany — The Army is planning to boost the pace of rotations to its combat training centers in the United States and Germany, going from 20 this year to 32 in 2020 as the service emphasizes higher end combat skills.

Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, said on Wednesday that a push is underway to send more units to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif. and a similar center in Hohenfels, Germany. The effort coincides with a strategy centered on gearing up for “high intensity conflict against a strategic global competitor,” Milley told an Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.

As an Army “we are on the mend,” Milley said. “Our near competitors, our adversaries, however have capitalized on the last 17 years to advance their own position.”

Since 2001, the Army’s main focus has been on battling insurgencies and conducting counterterrorism missions. As a result the combat skills needed to fight a more sophisticated foe have atrophied, analysts claim.

A more assertive Russia and China, two countries that have invested heavily in military modernization efforts, has forced a shift in the military’s focus to “great power competition.”

The Army’s main challenge, is to prepare to fight “on the high end and on the low end” at the same time, Milley said.

Milley, who is expected to replace Gen. Joseph Dunford at the chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 2020, said the Army has already taken steps to better prepare units and boost the overall combat readiness of the force. This year, all operational units, including those in Europe and the Pacific, will be filled at 100 percent manning, Milley said. Next year, it will increase to 105 percent manning.

In recent years, many units have been manned at levels of about 85 percent. By boosting it to 100 percent or more, units are better able to cope if some soldiers become non-deployable for any reason.

Training also will intensify as the Army prepares units to face adversaries with skills unseen on the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq, such as opponents capable of conducting electronic warfare, firing missiles, and mounting assaults by air and sea.

A key part of the training, will be developing the ability to launch mass fire attacks from the ground, Milley said. But for Army combat units, there will be a learning curve on a skill crucial for soldiers during the Cold War, but neglected in the years since.

“We stopped training on it,” Milley said. “We have an entire generation of leaders who don’t really understand completely the whole idea of fires,” Milley said.

The Army has begun to recapture those skills, he said.

Going forward, Milley said developing long range precision fires from ground forces — a top Army modernization effort will provide “a decisive advantage” in future fights.

Twitter: @john_vandiver

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, second from the left, visits with soldiers from the 1st Armored Division at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., in 2016. Milley said Wednesday a push is under way to send more units to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Ca. and a similar center in Hohenfels, Germany.