Fort Drum commander talks future wars, training planning

Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt discusses medical readiness during a roundtable discussion with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand at Fort Drum on May 1, 2017.


By GORDON BLOCK | Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. | Published: June 13, 2017

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — The fights of the future will not look like the ones of today, Fort Drum’s commander said, and soldiers of today will have to train differently to prepare for them.

“You won’t get there if you only perfect the skills of today,” said Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt.

The general said those conflicts, referred to by the Army as multi-domain battles, will pit troops against enemies of comparable skill in fighting on multiple fronts, from the land, to the sea, to the air, to computers and radio communications.

“We’ve got to put it all together against an enemy that wants to deny us the use of those assets,” Gen. Piatt said.


The concepts have been touted for months by top Army officials like Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, who previously led the 10th Mountain Division.

Gen. Piatt said Gen. Milley emphasized the need to be able to win the first fight against an enemy force.

“If we can’t win it, we can’t deter it,” Gen. Piatt said.

The division has been used constantly during fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, where some skills have atrophied, such as countering threats from the air. If an opponent were to disrupt communications, soldiers would have to navigate with limited resources.

“We can do without it, but we have to train for it,” Gen. Piatt said.

Unlike current fights, soldiers may not have constant communication with higher leadership, requiring them to “fight independently, but under mission orders,” Gen. Piatt said.

Overall, Gen. Piatt said Gen. Milley has been emphasizing a higher level of training for soldiers across multiple levels.

“We’re trying to make sure we have leaders training to the level they’re fighting in,” he said.

One element of this effort will be seen locally in the next few months, as leaders prepare for a division-level exercise later this year.

As a part of planning for the future, Gen. Piatt said the division’s staff is looking into ways to be “pushing the envelope” with its training facilities on post, including the development of space to handle larger unit training, and an ability to train in electronic warfare tasks such as signal jamming.

“We’ve got to make sure the training area we have meets our readiness needs now, and our needs 30 years from now,” he said.

The general said the post is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to increase use of its drones, and also wants to improve its runway and railheads. If done correctly, Gen. Piatt said the post’s training space “could be one of the best on the East Coast.”

One key for Gen. Piatt was building the post’s facilities without negatively impacting the surrounding community.

“We can build our capacity without hurting our neighbors,” he said.

©2017 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)
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