New training command chief: Expect more change
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — The fast pace of changes to U.S. Army training programs in Europe will continue, says the new chief of the Joint Multinational Training Command — the Army’s premier overseas training facility.
Brig. Gen. David R. Hogg, 48, who took over leadership of the command Thursday from Brig. Gen. David G. Perkins, said his first focus will be upcoming rotations for several units headed on overseas missions.
Change, which has been rapid at JMTC over the past few years, will continue at a fast pace, added the Omaha, Neb., native.
“We can’t afford not to change because the environment we are in is constantly changing. If you don’t change you become a dinosaur. You can’t afford not to because it is about soldiers’ lives,” he said.
When Perkins took command at JMTC in August 2005, 1st Infantry Division tanks still sent rounds downrange in the training area while Bradley fighting vehicles ground their way through the forest nearby.
Now the tanks are long gone, replaced by infantry from the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment and other Europe-based units that use the same ranges to train for the war on terrorism.
At the change of command ceremony, Perkins had to speak over the sound of builders hammering away on some of the many new facilities that have sprouted up at Grafenwöhr to cater to thousands of troops due to arrive from other parts of Germany over the next few years.
Perkins said the exercise at Hohenfels’ Joint Multinational Readiness Center last month was a good example of the way the training center has changed.
The exercise was the largest at Hohenfels, involving more than 6,000 troops from the Iraq-bound 12th Combat Aviation Brigade and the Afghanistan-bound 173rd Airborne Brigade as well as 1st Infantry Division Military Transition Teams headed to Afghanistan. Troops from Poland, Bulgaria and Afghanistan plus police and staff from a Combat Surgical Hospital also took part.
“It was really a great example of everything we tried to bring together in the last couple of years,” said Perkins, adding that the exercise looked a lot like what the 173rd will face in Afghanistan.
“Each time we do it (run a training exercise), it gets more complex. We want to have the maximum amount of participation of the elements the soldiers will see downrange. When a soldier gets off the plane in Iraq or Afghanistan it should be very similar to what they saw in training with no big surprises,” he said.
Speaking at the ceremony, Perkins praised the JMTC trainers for their efforts.
“You are the last source of good ideas before they (deploying troops) go forth to face our enemies around the world. You influence thousands upon thousands of individuals. It is not long before they start pulling those special skills out and start using them on the battlefield and because of that thousands upon thousands of them return home and reunite with their families,” he said.