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A proposal for combined arms training for Reserve officers

daftandbarmy

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A modest proposal… do what we're supposed to do, instead of whatever we think we're doing right now to add value :)

A proposal for combined arms training for Reserve officers​

Combat results in the last decade indicate that an appropriate amount of time should be made available for combined arms training, especially for those who do not have experience in this regard. As the recent Nagorno-Karabakh War has demonstrated, combined arms operations under good execution are always more effective than single arm operations.

Yet, with only one night per week and one weekend per month, scheduled training time is very limited for Reserve officers. Therefore, planning, coordinating, and executing capabilities should be the training aim of Reserve officers.

In the post-war years, the lethality of combined arms operations has rapidly increased with the improving accuracy and power of modern weaponry. Examples in the Gulf War have shown that, when aerial protection is not guaranteed, all that is required to eliminate battalions of tanks are a handful of helicopters and fixed-winged aircraft. Of course, the concept of combined arms operations is not constrained to land warfare. The losses of HMS Coventry and HMS Sheffield in the Falkland’s War show that it is much the same at sea. Both ships were capable destroyers on radar picket duty when sunk at exposed positions. The failure of continuous air cover on the part of the British task force gave the Argentines opportunities to sink the ships, leading to tragic consequences.

These examples show that mastery of combined arms is no less important than competency at individual stations. It is imperative that the idea is well understood at every level of command.

The mastery of the combined arms principle has expanded as new domains of warfare have come into effect, from cyberwarfare to space-based intelligence capabilities. These have imposed higher demands on the command staff to process increased amounts of intelligence and to coordinate operations in each domain.

There should be no illusions: The learning curve to meet this demand is steep and requires continuous effort over sufficient time to develop the necessary skill. Training with regards to these capabilities is largely neglected for Reservists and could prove fatal in a war against a structured and well-armed enemy.

Modern combat requires fast responses, and the responsibilities of coordination and initiative are transferred to some extent from a centralized command to each component unit. This means the regimental commanding officer cannot be the only person with the skillset to coordinate operations among friendly assets – every officer should be able to do so.

We believe that the introduction of regular joint exercises between local Reserve units and the development of a battlespace simulation software intended for Reservists’ use can remedy the current training deficiency. For instance, combat and support units based around Vancouver, including the Seaforth Highlanders, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, the British Columbia Regiment, the 39th Signal Regiment and the 39th Service Battalion can organize a joint exercise once a year to test their interoperability. If possible, involvement of air and naval assets would increase the realism of the exercise. In essence, Reserve units should be encouraged to hold their own “mini-Exercise Maple Resolve.”

On the other hand, the battlespace simulation software developed should support map-based wargaming of hypothetical scenarios and hence provide proof of concept and theoretical backing for combined arms exercise plans. The simulation process could include optional battle domains, such as electronic warfare, that are not normally explored. Some commercial options provide good starting points, such as Command Modern Operations on Steam.

Reservists will command units in the form of operation debriefs and the training software should include weapon systems available to the CAF. The simulation should be run by two opposing teams while requiring very few or no umpires.

It is imperative that before engaging in a battlespace simulation, teams prepare staff plans encompassing as much detail as possible. The goals of battlespace simulations are to develop in Reservists the ability to “foresee” the progression of an operation and to learn potential shortcomings at the planning stage which could cause mission failure.

The first goal is supportive of regular field exercises. It should be expected that eventually Reservists will be able to visualize the battlespace given limited intelligence and to make appropriate adjustments accordingly in real time in a field operation.

The second goal is integral to the training to staff officers whose responsibility is to ensure mission success by planning and elimination of variables and threats. The simulation can provide experience in the training regime.

The above two additions to training should be sufficient to enhance understanding and execution of the combined arms concept among Reserve officers.

As the Canadian Armed Forces struggles to maintain its current strength while preparing for the next generation of warfare, Reservists will be expected to be as competent as Regular Force members. Their interoperability should hence be guaranteed by advanced combined arms simulation and exercise experience. Only in this way can the combat effectiveness of the force be maintained.

A proposal for combined arms training for Reserve officers | Canadian Army Today
 

Brad Sallows

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First there has to be some Res F combined arms training. I suppose this still varies by trade and classification, with people receiving bits and pieces of hands-on on single-arms courses, some more hands-on on a combat team commander's course (if they get one), and MCSC being the full suite but limited to theory and map-based exercises. Meanwhile the non-commissioned stream gets practical experience working directly with other branches on ...?

to test their interoperability

Literally interpreted, this has to be a practical evaluation to be of any use. Not sure what kind of company team emerges, based on infantry (customary) and recce (atypical). The loggies provide a correspondingly sized echelon, which - be realistic - would not include any officers. A FOO party, not gun dets attached directly to the team. A handful of signallers, not a troop. I foresee the same kind of "for-show, pretend we can do level 4+" performance I witnessed during the days of the mighty Pac Mil Area / 11 Bde. Also, if there is going to be one exercise a year to test this stuff, maybe there should be one or more exercises a year to practice it, first.

So maybe what is meant is "to test their knowledge of combined arms doctrine and planning processes", and to do it at (preferably above) the battalion group level. That would be map-based exercises involving people (officers and senior NCOs) with adequate knowledge of everything involved. Since I don't know what combined arms training below MCSC is currently given to reservists, I can't be certain if the training void is as big as I suspect .

Battle simulation software is best used to generate outcomes at arms length from the troops being exercised. No umpires, just operators with sidekicks who send information over radio nets (lower control). What I suppose is still called a CAX. An exercise in which the people make a plan and then execute it standing beside the game operators is, I decided after a couple of exposures, fun but worthless.

The way for the Res F to do this is to gather together, form HQs (units and brigade), put the troops being exercised under canvas somewhere in the training area (not in comfy barracks) at least out of line of sight of each other, and have higher/lower con running the "game". Do it for a week.
 

Colin Parkinson

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I recall playing Arty CP for a combined unit map exercise in the BCR Armoury around 1980. Basically each element was represented by officers from each unit in the Lower mainland and each had some theoretical forces, our job was to provide arty fires and when to say "sorry can't do that". There JR's from each unit basically handling the signals and requests for resources.
 

MilEME09

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it is a great concept and such a concept the army is potentially looking into on a national scale, while the IT and network requirements would be huge, this could create huge opportunities. imagine a virtual brigade EX over a weekend where you say have 39 CBG vs 41 CBG in a virtual environment. IT is the biggest draw back of making this happen, our current main programs VBS and Mil SIM are limited mainly due to the army not setting up dedicated virtual centers.

What I mean by this is DND will not set aside computers just for VBS, they burrow computers that are already loaded with tons of other software. Which according to one gentlemen I talked to who helps run VBS for the army means that VBS encounters countless errors due to conflicts with other programs on the computers. If we want success in a virtual training environment then we essentially need a simulator only networked computer lab.
 
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daftandbarmy

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it is a great concept and such a concept the army is potentially looking into on a national scale, while the IT and network requirements would be huge, this could create huge opportunities. imagine a virtual brigade EX over a weekend where you say have 39 CBG vs 41 CBG in a virtual environment. IT is the biggest draw back of making this happen, our current main programs VBS and Mil SIM are limited mainly due to the army not setting up dedicated virtual centers.

What I mean by this is DND will not set aside computers just for VBS, they burrow computers that are already loaded with tons of other software. Which according to one gentlemen I walked to who helps run VBS for the army means that VBS encounters countless errors due to conflicts with other programs on the computers. If we want success in a virtual training environment then we essentially need a simulator only networked computer lab.

nod yes GIF by Captain Obvious
 

daftandbarmy

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First there has to be some Res F combined arms training. I suppose this still varies by trade and classification, with people receiving bits and pieces of hands-on on single-arms courses, some more hands-on on a combat team commander's course (if they get one), and MCSC being the full suite but limited to theory and map-based exercises. Meanwhile the non-commissioned stream gets practical experience working directly with other branches on ...?

Since I don't know what combined arms training below MCSC is currently given to reservists, I can't be certain if the training void is as big as I suspect .

Picture 'nothing'.

Add a dash of 'if you are available next weekend, there's a CAX in another town about a 4 hour drive away' about once every three years.

This CAX will be virtually the same one you did in 1980, against the same enemy, using the same friendly forces orbat, except with RPVs (if you're lucky).
 

Brad Sallows

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Which according to one gentlemen I talked to who helps run VBS for the army means that VBS encounters countless errors due to conflicts with other programs on the computers.

He'll have to do better than that. I've spent my working life doing a mix of development and application support for projects affecting multiple customers, so I routinely run a hockey sock of third-party and home-grown applications simultaneously. None of these has any problem "conflicting with other programs". Either VBS is a PoS and should be discarded immediately, or the "problems" are not what he thinks they are, or he doesn't understand what he is talking about (eg. maybe the servers are maxing out on CPU and physical memory usage).

If the problem is simply the last one, then yes: compared to the value of the time of the people who have to spend hours remediating problems because the people responsible for authorizing expenditures are stingy, servers are cheap.

Until we reach the point at which a virtual training centre can put everyone into vehicle/turret mockups with VR goggles so that they can enjoy the illusion of conducting mounted operations as a combat team, I reiterate that the only real training value of military simulations (for the army) is to achieve a closer approximation to battlefield results than human umpires, in order to feed those outcomes as events into a CPX (CAX). (There's a small, secondary value in being able to run real-time vignettes on a screen to develop time and space appreciation.) If we're willing to settle for a point between "human" and "sophisticated military simulation", a copy of "Steel Panthers" or "TacOps" or "BCT Commander" (all ancient) would do; the main limitation is that with only one operator, the number of elements in play has to be limited.

Before investing in anything fancy, I'd simply augment a simulation to spit out its own radio traffic in real-time for facilitators to parrot into applicable radio nets.
 

dapaterson

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There are few Res F units in Canada which can field a full up company.

Combined arms: with two sections of infantry, a MRT with the vehicle driven by the Reg F WO since he's the only one with the qual, a sigs det of seven people, one gun but no FSCC from the Artillery... this does not a combined arms exercise make.

Res units are mandated to train platoons in a company context. They fail to do this. They fail to develop and maintain the baseline junior solider skills necessary. Somehow adding "combined arms" for a weekend does not address that foundational problem. It wastes resources, the most important of which is time.
 

FJAG

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There are few Res F units in Canada which can field a full up company.

Combined arms: with two sections of infantry, a MRT with the vehicle driven by the Reg F WO since he's the only one with the qual, a sigs det of seven people, one gun but no FSCC from the Artillery... this does not a combined arms exercise make.

Res units are mandated to train platoons in a company context. They fail to do this. They fail to develop and maintain the baseline junior solider skills necessary. Somehow adding "combined arms" for a weekend does not address that foundational problem. It wastes resources, the most important of which is time.
Agreed.

I'm an advocate for reforming the reserves so that they can and should do combined arm operations.

Unfortunately as it stands that's just not in the cards. Yes, we can mash together various battalions on a summer exercise to form a company, maybe even two and yes we can put out recce troops and yes a dismounted couple of FOOs but that's far from "combined" arms.

As DAP says, reservists can't form a proper FSCC much less an ASCC, there are no real combat support capabilities, and the echelons are barely in existence. The basic building blocks simply aren't there but more important than anything else, the individual components that go together in a proper combined arms team are barely capable of performing their own basic functions.

Before you can form an orchestra, every player needs to know how to master his own instrument. For the majority of the reserves there's a lot of instrument mastery yet to be done.

I have little against attempting to learn and practice above your paygrade but when there is limited time available then the proper course of action is to keep hammering away on the basics. Unfortunately the way the reserve system is presently set up and with its annual attrition and influx of fresh blood, there's rarely a chance to move forward beyond those basics.

As an aside, BGen Beno and Col Van Weelderen put out a publication on collective training for reservists several years ago which might be of interest to folks. It has a small para on combined arms training. You can find it here.

🍻
 

Colin Parkinson

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I see he gets the Reserves just from this quote:
Time is the most precious resource for a Reservist. He or she gives up time that
could be spent on studies, a civilian job, or with family to volunteer to help
defend our nation. It is vital that this time not be wasted. Too often, poorly
planned or ill-focused collective training results in dissatisfaction in a unit with
a resulting decrease in parade strength. Reservists ‘vote with their feet’ and
the lack of planning of coordination in collective training can quickly result in
negative effects on the armoury floor.
 

daftandbarmy

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Agreed.

I'm an advocate for reforming the reserves so that they can and should do combined arm operations.

Unfortunately as it stands that's just not in the cards. Yes, we can mash together various battalions on a summer exercise to form a company, maybe even two and yes we can put out recce troops and yes a dismounted couple of FOOs but that's far from "combined" arms.

As DAP says, reservists can't form a proper FSCC much less an ASCC, there are no real combat support capabilities, and the echelons are barely in existence. The basic building blocks simply aren't there but more important than anything else, the individual components that go together in a proper combined arms team are barely capable of performing their own basic functions.

Before you can form an orchestra, every player needs to know how to master his own instrument. For the majority of the reserves there's a lot of instrument mastery yet to be done.

I have little against attempting to learn and practice above your paygrade but when there is limited time available then the proper course of action is to keep hammering away on the basics. Unfortunately the way the reserve system is presently set up and with its annual attrition and influx of fresh blood, there's rarely a chance to move forward beyond those basics.

As an aside, BGen Beno and Col Van Weelderen put out a publication on collective training for reservists several years ago which might be of interest to folks. It has a small para on combined arms training. You can find it here.

🍻

For ages I tried to invite a FOO party on my dismounted platoon focused training, just so the Pl Comds could work with a FOO.

The Gunners were willing, but their training program was never synchronized enough to allow anyone to attend.

Alot could be done if we were able to manage a simple action like aligning training programs.
 

MilEME09

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For ages I tried to invite a FOO party on my dismounted platoon focused training, just so the Pl Comds could work with a FOO.

The Gunners were willing, but their training program was never synchronized enough to allow anyone to attend.

Alot could be done if we were able to manage a simple action like aligning training programs.
Would help a lot, we plan a year in advance so why am I getting an MRT support request on two weeks notice? We know what EX's support would be needed so why wait till zero hour to ask for it?
 

GR66

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If only there was some way to have an annual training schedule shared between multiple units.

:rolleyes:
 

Brad Sallows

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If only. One of the things I liked best about HQ was providing them with the annual training plan, with its monthly training calendar (which had everything, not just training), and then being told to provide a monthly training forecast (ie. a calendar) each month.
 

daftandbarmy

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If only there was some way to have an annual training schedule shared between multiple units.

:rolleyes:

Yeah, I mean, all the full time staff at Bde HQ wouldn't have time to do that, especially in the G3 and G5 shops, because they're already too busy not planning annual BTEs ;)
 

FJAG

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For ages I tried to invite a FOO party on my dismounted platoon focused training, just so the Pl Comds could work with a FOO.

The Gunners were willing, but their training program was never synchronized enough to allow anyone to attend.

Alot could be done if we were able to manage a simple action like aligning training programs.
That made me think.

The two years I was the RSSO with 26th Fd in Brandon, we never had an exercise with any of the infantry or recce units in Manitoba (the sigs and meds yes) ... except summer Milcons.

A few years later when I ran a company of Camerons in Winnipeg we never had an exercise with any FOOs from 26th Fd ... except summer Milcons.

......... :unsure:
 

MilEME09

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That made me think.

The two years I was the RSSO with 26th Fd in Brandon, we never had an exercise with any of the infantry or recce units in Manitoba (the sigs and meds yes) ... except summer Milcons.

A few years later when I ran a company of Camerons in Winnipeg we never had an exercise with any FOOs from 26th Fd ... except summer Milcons.

......... :unsure:
In my experience it is people protecting their own empires. I have experienced it in my own unit if "if we let a team go on (insert unit here)'s exercise, then there would be less people on our own exercises! We can't have that " and thus requests for support get no filled.
 

daftandbarmy

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In my experience it is people protecting their own empires. I have experienced it in my own unit if "if we let a team go on (insert unit here)'s exercise, then there would be less people on our own exercises! We can't have that " and thus requests for support get no filled.

I have had that argument with my (Senior Officer) peers about a thousand times, and they never budged.

It reflects the deepest levels of leadership insecurity which we, somehow, manage to successfully train into our chains of command.
 

FJAG

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In my experience it is people protecting their own empires. I have experienced it in my own unit if "if we let a team go on (insert unit here)'s exercise, then there would be less people on our own exercises! We can't have that " and thus requests for support get no filled.
I have had that argument with my (Senior Officer) peers about a thousand times, and they never budged.

It reflects the deepest levels of leadership insecurity which we, somehow, manage to successfully train into our chains of command.
I could buy that but I really don't because in both cases I was the one in charge of creating the units' training plans and setting the exercises. And if there's one thing I am its cooperative and a believer in joint training ... yet over a period of four plus years I never organized any such training.

I'm genuinely wondering about why I never did. What I keep coming up with is that the complexities of a short combined exercise for reservists gets in the way of the teaching points for the individual elements of the participants and as a result, at the junior level, the training is not as thorough as it might be if they were being exercised individually.

... Of course I'm not sure if that's just a rationalization.

:unsure:
 
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