Command ensures battlefield lessons shared
BAMBERG, Germany — There is a renewed emphasis by coalition forces to share sometimes sensitive information with one another, according to top military officials dealing with joint force operations.
Currently, 120,000 troops from 45 countries are fighting alongside each other in Afghanistan.
“The strengthening of our alliance is a never-ending imperative,” Marine Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, said on the command’s website. “With a bias for action, we continue to search for mutually beneficial engagements between Allied Command Transformation and U.S. Joint Forces Command with the goal of ensuring that no enemy on the battlefield ever finds a seam or disconnect between our forces.”
The primary focus of the command is to ensure lessons learned on the battlefield are passed between allied nations.
“There is no reason why we should not share the lessons learned to save the lives of any soldier … no matter what flag they wear on their shoulder,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield at the Joint Center for Operational Analysis in Norfolk, Va.
Created in 2003, the center collects, analyzes and disseminates lessons learned with the goal of improving the joint force’s warfighting capability, according to its website. Its research covers such issues as chemical and biological threats, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief operations, and mitigating the effects of civilian casualties in counterinsurgency operations.
The JCOA has to overcome many obstacles in transferring information between coalition partners.
One of biggest sticking points is the classification of information, Crutchfield said. Some information is over classified, and the legal process of lowering the classification level takes a lengthy time to complete, he said.
Once you get over that hurdle, then you have to figure out how to transmit the information. Nations work on different technical systems and sometimes the systems are not compatible, he said.
“Sometimes it is hard to communicate – even e-mail is difficult, Crutchfield said.
Beside technical problems, overcoming cultural barriers can be a problem, he said.
“Some countries have a hard time sharing their lessons learned because they believe they are national lessons learned,” he said. “It’s hard – we are moving closer and closer to better sharing. This organization has come a long way to break down these barriers.”
The Joint Chiefs of Staff set up a program in 2008 to combat these problems known as the Joint Lessons Learned Program, where liaisons from the U.S. contribute to their host nations with lessons learned.
“Make a positive change for all our servicemembers no matter what flag is on their shoulder,” Crutchfield said.