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Tom Rozman: Confronting a “perfect storm” & beating it

Building a New Armored Division Training Support Organization:

11th in a series by Tom Rozman

A forward deployed armored division in Germany was confronting a major period of modernization in place with such upgrades as absorbing a new tank of significantly expanded capability and an infantry fighting vehicle with as significant an increase in capability.

With 10 maneuver battalions and a cavalry squadron as organizations that would be upgrading and an ongoing and demanding readiness mission, this modernization would be a huge complex task.

One aspect of the task would be especially challenging–the necessary training support infrastructure.

The division occupied over 10 garrisons in northern Bavaria’s Franken Region with a network of local firing ranges for up to 50 caliber machine gun live fire capability and tactical training areas for small unit tactical training, the largest being Tennenlohe Wald a 36 square kilometer training and firing range facility, the largest local training area in Germany.  Urban encroachment was an increasing issue with open range small caliber live fire training.

All major weapons training and large unit maneuver training was dependent on multi-week deployments termed “densities” at three major training centers available to the division—Hohenfels for maneuver, Grafenwoehr for gunnery and Wildflecken for gunnery.  These centers were in constant demand by three other divisions, two brigades, two armored cavalry regiments and many other units.  Scheduled densities were in high demand and woe be to a unit that for any reason mishandled a scarce density.  The situation would be made more demanding as the units moved forward on the modernization schedule.

Adding further to the challenge, the existing training infrastructure was severely dated and in need of upgrade even for existing systems and in many cases inadequate for the new systems.  The division’s local training infrastructure was aged and in need of refurbishment and replacement.

Fortunately, a significant element of the modernization program included local and theater training support programs to include emerging interactive virtual simulation systems that would allow critical individual and collective combat vehicle crew gunnery training locally firing nothing louder than a stream of electrons.  But other areas were not as well supported and the array of training resource issues, to include training ammunition accounts management, management of combat vehicle fuel, lubricants and spare parts accounts (Operational Tempo or OPTEMPO accounts) and the division’s Training Management capital outlay projects accounts for local range and training area and new simulation center project funding indicated an inadequate training support base for the modernized force being generated.  A new and more effective training support establishment was clearly necessary, better organized to orchestrate the many modernization projects, upgrade projects and provide effective sustaining management for the up-scaled training support establishment.

Enter the new division commander.  Recently promoted from brigadier general to major general and fresh from his tour as commandant of the staff college, this officer had a plan for reforming the division training establishment that was consistent with the new force being created, its capabilities and the unique challenges of sustaining a combat ready armored force within the constraints of peacetime Europe on a semi-war footing.

Almost immediately, the new division commander moved to reorganize one of his division assistant plans, operations, and training offices into a “Training Support Management Office” with an increased staff of 14 officers, NCOs and civilians to manage the division’s extensive training resource accounts, training infrastructure, and capital outlay project management.  Additionally, he had taken early initiatives to move the division training system into the modern age with a projected command and control simulation center.  Its hardware and software guts would be a prototype system that he had promoted at the Staff College that would migrate to the division.  It would require a several hundred thousand dollar capital project to house the system.

Additionally, site project management needed to be tightly focused, projects to be completed on time to accept unit conduct of fire training systems (UCOFTS) for the 11 armored, mechanized infantry and armored cavalry battalions and squadron.  Any site unable to accept delivery of its COFT would be bumped to a later date—a result catastrophic for gunnery training as the new tank tables authorization for training munitions was significantly reduced, structured on the use of the COFT in compensation for the training ammunition removed from the gunnery tables, an Army fiscal necessity given the greatly increased per unit cost of the new tank’s training munitions.

To get the ball rolling on forming the new staff section, the division commander immediately launched his chief of staff, operations and personnel officers on building the staff section.  This effort included selection of the officer to lead the new section.  The officer chosen was a major who had been serving as the executive officer of a mechanized battalion of the division’s tank heavy brigade.  The major was a staff college graduate and had been the battalion’s acting commander for over two months and had previously served in other battalions and at brigade and division level for seven years in units in the U. S. and Korea and had substantial experience with the training system.

As the new office formed, a team approach was applied.  Three sections  were formed under the office’s two captains and one civilian manager as section chiefs, one focused on the Training Management Area’s three Training Development Areas (each of the division’s general officers presided over one of these areas) and programs.  One captain led a section with a computer and software system of the day designed to track and report on the status of the OPTEMPO accounts—hundreds of millions of dollars of training resourcing per fiscal year.  This section would provide the data basis to manage these huge accounts.  The second captain managed a section that overlooked all other training accounts—training ammunition, training aids, devices, simulators, and simulations (TADSS), training center support and schools.

The section had formed and hit the ground running.  Major projects were proceeding on schedule and new projects had to be integrated into the procurement and scheduling system.  The capital projects had to be coordinated with German planning districts.  The formidable division ongoing training program, to include its battalion densities at the training centers, demanded tight focus on training munitions and OPTEMPO accounts whose managing and monitoring was further complicated by a series of federal budget cuts over the next year and a half that caused several reorganizations of the accounts.  As well, the USAREUR conference to review capital training projects and prioritize them to available funds had two meetings scheduled and razor sharp focus had to be maintained on the UCOFT site preparation projects.

In the latter case, to illustrate the need for vigilance, one of the communities in which four UCOFTs were to be sited was found to have had an uncoordinated modification to site location made by the assistant community manager, a major, to accommodate a project to build a Burger King facility.  An immediate intervention action became necessary to restore the original project with no time to spare.

The new office’s team gelled quickly and with a huge plate of work, applied its increasingly capable and flexible organization to the demanding task of managing a huge training support enterprise that supported not only the training needs of the 19,000 troops of the division but an almost equal number of troops assigned to corps units in the area and some German units.  And the office met its “go to war” mission as well—the office constituted the division’s night shift for the deployed division tactical operations center (TOC), deploying over an 18 month period for two, two week, Return of Forces to Germany (REFORGER) exercises.

The overall effect of the division commander’s vision and leadership in forming a focused office to deal with an almost impossible management task, the management of hundreds of millions of dollars in form of an almost infinite array of training support systems, resources and projects for an increasingly complex and huge combat organization was to bear increasingly apparent fruit.  Within a year and a half the COFTS were in place.  The division had negotiated confirmation of all existing capital projects and a funding of 100% of its new projects, an unheard of achievement in the competitive environment among the other training management areas.

One of these successes was the completion of a full service high end command and control simulation training center that became a resource not only for the division brigade and division command and control elements but those of the other divisions and brigades in Germany.  The center also developed a battalion capability.

Major upgrades were made to all TMA ranges and training facilities.  And despite the series of OPTEMPO cuts, the division was able to manage its accounts thanks to the capabilities developed in the new office in such way that the cuts had significantly less negative effect on readiness than would have occurred  without the new capabilities.

Because of the visionary leadership and decisive commitment of the new commanding general, a capability was developed that was able to confront a “perfect storm” of potentially overwhelming developments in the training area.  As well, a team approach and delegation to talented subordinates allowed a tiny organization to perform extremely well a gigantic mission.

Previous articles by Tom Rozman:

American & German cooperation with a Canadian connection

A Battalion Commander’s Determination

The AWOL M16

Rebuilding a University ROTC Cadet Corps and more

Supporting a National Guard Mechanized Infantry Company & more

Reorganizing a Mechanized Infantry Company

No Time for Platoon ARTEPS in a Mechanized Battalion

The Reward for Doing Well

Leadership Approaches That Get the Job Done

Reconstituting an Overseas Platoon on a Mission of High Sensitivity