Fort Leavenworth


28th Infantry Division successfully leads first division-level warfighter hosted by Fort Indiantown Gap

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Story by Staff Sgt. Doug Roles

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa.The installation successfully completed its first division-level warfighter exercise for Soldiers assigned to the 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard as well as additional training audiences in November.

More than 3,000 individuals convened here to participate in the training and support the computer-simulated exercise.

The preparation for this event took months, explained Capt. Steven Rogers the lead Fort Indiantown Gap warfighter real life support planner. "We had to ensure all installation infrastructure was sufficient for the exercise and coordinate IT support, dining, recreation, medical, transportation and more."

Post officials coordinated for the opening of a new USO facility as well as an on-post bus shuttle.

All the preparations paid dividends during the exercise.

"We were able to successfully meet the demands for housing and meals as well as support exercise communications for Warfighter 17-2," said Col. Robert Hepner, garrison commander. "Division and brigade-level elements planning for this mission essential task list and leader development training are now able to consider The Gap' as an option for division-level warfighters."

The goal of Army warfighter exercises is to simulate stressful scenarios so that unit staffs may identify areas of improvement.

The two-week, computer-simulated command and control exercise was based on a fictitious scenario in which a U.S. ally was invaded by a hostile neighboring nation causing a 28th Infantry Division-led task force to respond as part of a larger coalition force.

"The exercise went very well with focus on integrating intelligence, fires and partnerships," Brig. Gen. Andrew Schafer, 28th Infantry Division commander, said. "It allowed us to challenge our people and processes to identify areas for continued improvement."

During a warfighter, each staff section is assigned a senior mentor or observer/controller, a soldier who specializes in that warfighting function and can offer feedback and guidance during the exercise. Schafer said these mission command training staff "are critical in retaining and expanding institutional knowledge."

"Training with all elements [National Guard, Reserves and Active components] is extremely valuable," he added. "Not only does it allow the sharing of knowledge and capabilities but also develops relationships and trust that will inevitably be needed in future operations."

Units planning a warfighter exercise at Indiantown Gap should consider the location of their main tactical operations center in relation to that of subordinate units, says Lt. Col. Brett Gagnon, 28th Infantry Division G6 (signal officer). He said good communication with the mission command training staff and the Joint Force Headquarters J6 is also key.

"Those are the players you have to work with," Gagnon said. "And get a good assessment of the location and layout of what units go where. Co-locating units made troubleshooting easier."

Gagnon explained that 28th Infantry Division located its division tactical command post on a different part of post from the division main tactical operations center to better simulate turnover of battle control as 28th Infantry Division elements moved forward in the fight. Doing so required good use of line-of-sight FM radio communications.

"The Joint Force Headquarters J-6 put in an underground ring of fiber-optic cable in preparation for the exercise," Gagnon said. "We connected with Hurlburt Field (Fla.), Fort Leavenworth (Kan.) and Fort Hood (Texas) through that fiber ring."

In addition to 28th Infantry Division units, exercise participants included multiple states Army and Air National Guard, U.S. Army Reserve and active Army and Air Force units or personnel as well as observers from the British army.

Major units represented in the exercise were the 28th Infantry Division; 371st Sustainment Brigade, Ohio National Guard; 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade, New York National Guard; 138th Field Artillery Brigade, Kentucky National Guard; 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, I Corps, U.S. Army, Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Wash.; 42nd Infantry Division, N.Y. National Guard; 377th Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Reserve, La.; 118th Air Support Operations Squadron, N.C. National Guard; 168th Air Support Operations Squadron, Ill. National Guard.

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