Tech-Centric Training Fills a Gap

October 2004
By Maryann Lawlor
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Lt. Cmdr. William Garren, USN, director, 2nd Fleet/Striking Fleet Atlantic joint operations center, briefs watch standers in the joint operations center onboard the USS Mount Whitney. The ship acted as the 2nd Fleet/Striking Fleet flagship during COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE EXERCISE (CJTFEX) 04-2.

Virtual and constructive forces support live force preparation for operations.

The accelerating tempo along with the growing number of military operations is taking a toll on joint training, but the U.S. military and its allies are compensating with technology and adaptive planning. In its first integration training event focusing on functional component commands, the Joint National Training Capability helped militaries from numerous nations prepare to fight in a coalition environment by providing modeling and simulation components. The exercise also certified the USS John F. Kennedy carrier strike group to deploy to real-world operations and provided interim training for the USS Harry S Truman group.

U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), Norfolk, Virginia, and the U.S. Defense Department formally created the Joint National Training Capability (JNTC) in January 2003 (SIGNAL, April 2003, page 17). The JNTC establishes a joint warfighting environment through a collection of networked, interoperable training sites that pull together personnel, doctrine and technology to meet combatant commander and individual service training requirements.

The enhanced training capability features live, virtual and constructive training on land, in the air and at sea. Live forces are troops that operate in and around the United States. Virtual forces involve warfighters working in simulators. Constructive forces are simulated entities in a simulated environment, similar to computer war games.

JNTC exercises fall into four categories: horizontal, vertical, integration and functional. JFCOM sponsored its first JNTC horizontal training exercise in January 2004 (SIGNAL Connections, February 2004). And this summer, more than 28,000 troops participated in COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE EXERCISE (CJTFEX) 04-2, the JNTC’s first integration event, designated operation Blinding Storm. In addition to U.S. military services and special operations participants, forces from several other nations took part in the event, including the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Peru, Norway, Italy, Denmark, Turkey and France. The live component exercise participants operated in the waters off the U.S. East Coast. Virtual participants trained via computer networks located in 20 sites throughout the United States, including Naval Air Station, Fallon, Nevada, and Fort Bliss, Texas.

The scenario for CJTFEX 04-2 featured a fictional area of responsibility called EASTCOM. The geography mirrored the southeastern United States with a constructive island nation off the coast. In the scenario, a regional aggressive nation had destabilized the area by sponsoring terrorism and political activity that culminated in the invasion and occupation of portions of a friendly nation. Within three months of the “invasion,” U.S. troops led a broad coalition force to enforce U.N. resolutions and sanctions that mandated the return of sovereign territories in internationally recognized borders. Coalition forces conducted combined and joint expeditionary operations to assist the friendly nation’s own military forces and defeat the aggressor.

The exercise included an opposed night amphibious landing, live fire exercises, experimentation, and the complex command and control of land, amphibious, air and maritime headquarters. More than 60 coalition ships and hundreds of aircraft participated in the scenario.

According to William Johnson, lead planner, CJTFEX 04-2, Joint Warfighting Center, JFCOM, the exercise was scheduled to be a joint task force exercise (JTFEX) that the 2nd Fleet would use to certify a carrier strike group and an expeditionary strike group. Certification is the final examination before either of these groups deploy.

The event began growing when the United Kingdom was brought on board for the exercise, Johnson explains. Generally, the United Kingdom and the United States collaborate in a major exercise every four years. However, because of involvement in Kosovo in 2000, the last time this cooperative arrangement was possible was in 1996. As a result, the United Kingdom contacted the Joint Chiefs of Staff about conducting an exercise in 2004, and when the JTFEX was identified as the likely forum, the event was renamed the CJTFEX 04-2, Johnson continues.

“Then at one point we had a program called the American, British, Canadian, Australian [ABCA] Army Standardization Program, which was going to be a major player. Either 18th Airborne Corps or II MEF [Marine Expeditionary Force] was going to be our land component commander, but both of those commands dropped out because of real-world requirements. As a result, the ABCA program was dropped, but that still left us with a large exercise,” he says.

In addition to U.K. and U.S. military personnel, the planners added an Army National Guard division and special operations forces and created the joint task force with three component commanders and two other force commanders.

As the exercise began, the 9th Air Force air component commander used live and constructive aircraft for air missions to gain air superiority so that the amphibious force component could conduct its live assault in the Camp Lejeune area in North Carolina. Later in the scenario, the 34th Infantry Division from the Minnesota Army National Guard began its offensive operations to drive the adversary out of the friendly nation. With the help of the technologies provided by the JNTC, the commanders were unable to differentiate between live and constructive or virtual forces, Johnson says.

Planners balanced structured and free play during the scenario to ensure that the training objectives of the exercise were met. “It’s always a trade-off. You want to allow a certain amount of free play so that the opposing forces don’t have their hands tied behind their backs, and yet you can’t avoid the fact that you’ve got to ensure that these guys are prepared to deploy. We wrestled with that a great deal,” Johnson explains.

Some pieces of the exercises were fixed. For example, participants had to train for port clearance operations, so a battalion of Royal Marines conducted this work one day and a battalion of Dutch marines carried out the operations on another day. “Basically, they would fight for a day, and then they would quit and prepare to go on to what was next in their requirements,” he relates.

In addition to the training requirements, planners had to meet the needs of the 11 joint evaluation and test advanced technology demonstrations that were being examined during the event. Joint combat identification, joint cruise missile defense, global positioning system (GPS) jamming and Patriot radar capabilities were among the technologies that were examined.

Exploring these capabilities required personnel and resources, Johnson explains. “For instance, we had to program certain aircraft to fly over a certain operating area at a certain time of the day so that the GPS jammers could get some data to see if the GPS jammer was affecting the U-2 or some of the reconnaissance aircraft,” he notes.

To some extent, Johnson was surprised by how well the exercise turned out. Questions about how some pieces of the exercise would work and a few  other last minute issues were being  resolved during the first week of CJTFEX 04-2.

The large number of foreign nations involved in the exercise was a big challenge, and U.K. participation raised specific issues, he relates. “Obviously, they’ve been a major supporter of our effort in southwest Asia, and they wanted to play the game here the same way they were playing it in southwest Asia. But, there are more restrictions in what we can do in sharing information in the United States than they have in southwest Asia. That was a very big problem. In order to share the information with foreign participants, we had to make as much of it unclassified as possible,” he explains.

“There were two areas during the event that we exercised that we had not planned, mainly in regard to the 2nd Fleet staff: the interagency and information operations areas. We didn’t have any other agencies participating, but in the month or two prior to the start of the exercise, Vice Adm. Gary Roughhead, commander of the 2nd Fleet, asked us to try to exercise his future planners more than we had intended. We had planned on a minimal effort in that area, and as the exercise progressed we had to pull in some more interagency people to give 2nd Fleet what they were asking for,” Johnson relates. This also occurred in information operations, he adds.

Because the roving sands exercise was cut back drastically in 2003, a major theater missile defense element was added to CJTFEX 04-2. Two Patriot batteries were located at Camp Lejeune, and three more were in place at Fort Bliss, Texas. “In order to give them adequate play, we had a multitude of ballistic missile shots and constructive aircraft, and we also had to have some live aircraft flying. We’d have approximately 100 aircraft coming at the air defense people. They would shoot them down, and then they’d reappear the next day. That was fine for the theater missile defense guys because they got the training that they wanted, but the 9th Air Force air component commander was saying, ‘Where are all these aircraft coming from? I don’t have air superiority,’ even though we kept telling him to ignore it.

“That was one of the artificialities we had that almost derailed the exercise at one point. If the Air Force didn’t feel like they could get air superiority, they did not feel they could recommend that the amphibious assault should occur, and they did not feel they could recommend that the 34th Infantry Division should conduct their assault. So we had to say, ‘No, it’s not a problem. You’re going to have air superiority. They’re going to get ashore,’” Johnson says. Although this is not realistic, it was the way the exercise had to be conducted to meet the various requirements for CJTFEX, he adds.


Troops from K Company, 42nd Commando, and the U.S. Marine Corps practice section attacks and fire support drills from aboard a U.K. riverine assault craft. CJTFEX 04-2 training included live, virtual and constructive forces.

From a technical standpoint, some problems developed with the theater battle management core system, which is the U.S. Air Force’s command and control system that provides the air tasking orders. In addition, problems arose with providing the common operational picture to some of the U.S. commanders that needed it, but Johnson adds that the exercise team was able to work through these issues.

“One of our biggest problems during full planning for the exercise was force availability and the real-world requirements pulling forces from under us. And it happened until almost the final day before we started the exercise. When we started planning the exercise, we thought we had 18th Airborne Corps as our land component commander and the 82nd Airborne Division as the division that would control the ABCA forces. Well, 18th Airborne Corps dropped out, and then II MEF came in; II MEF dropped out so we lost the land component. Then the 82nd dropped out and we went to the 10th Mountain, and the 10th Mountain dropped out. We moved on until we got the 34th Infantry Division. We had 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit that was going to be part of the exercise. They got pulled out and deployed. So, we just had to adapt as much as possible,” Johnson shares.

Despite the challenges and although the prevailing opinion is that an exercise of this magnitude should not be attempted again, Johnson says they are likely to happen from time to time because of the requirement to train live forces. He believes the British would like to conduct a similar exercise and may not want to wait four years. If coalition forces will be involved in future exercises of this type, Johnson maintains that planning must occur much earlier and permission for use of foreign systems must be secured sooner.

“One of the things we were able to do—but it came almost at the last minute—was to put some U.K. officers onboard a U.S. SIPRNET [secret Internet protocol router network] machine on the USS Nassau. That was limited. We had to put certain restrictions on what they could see as far as Web sites, for example. We also tried, but didn’t have enough time in the end, to put some U.S. SIPRNET machines onboard a couple of British ships, so that the U.S. personnel deployed on those ships could have access to it. But we ran out of time to work that problem,” Johnson explains.

Challenges encountered during CJTFEX 04-2 have been summarized in the after-action report, and Johnson relates that, although similar problems are likely to reoccur, planners will be able to minimize them. “For example, we’ve been discussing that maybe 11 joint evaluation and test advanced technology demonstrations were too many. So, what is the right number? How will that affect the training for the live forces that has to be conducted? We’re definitely looking into that.

“This exercise did a lot of things for a lot of people. It supported the certification of the Kennedy strike group, which is deployed. It also supported an interim training exercise for the Harry S Truman group. It actually ended up being a certification for the U.K.’s amphibious force command staff for deployment, special forces groups and our special operations task force commander. So we had quite a few people who were using this as their final or pretty-close-to-final test or evaluation before going overseas,” he says. This could not have been accomplished if the exercise had to rely solely on live forces, he adds.

Web Resources
Combined Joint Task Force Exercise 04-2:
Joint National Training Capability:
U.S. Joint Forces Command:
U.S. Joint Forces Command, Joint Trainer:


Exercise Improves Joint National Training Capability

In addition to preparing troops for real-world operations, the combined joint task force exercise (CJTFEX) 04-2 helped Joint National Training Capability (JNTC) developers identify how they can mature their processes to support future training. A relatively new capability, the JNTC is continuously evolving based on each training exercise experience.

Col. Michael Armstrong, USA, technical exercise director, JNTC, JFCOM, says that although the JNTC is not even two years old, it already is filling one need. “There were systems out there that existed in all of the services, and they [the services] conducted exercises on their own. But what we were able to bring to the table here was getting the Navy and the appropriate Army and air forces together under the umbrella of one exercise and help provide the joint context,” the colonel explains.

For example, for CJTFEX 04-2 the JNTC team linked some new systems to the Aegis frigates and cruisers to provide a training forum. Live, virtual and constructive (LVC) missiles allowed the personnel on these vessels to practice the organization of theater missile defense forces.

“We found out that we had a very large analytical piece to this exercise. The organization in Hurlburt Field was doing a lot of live analysis of systems. So we really worked hard with them to get their various systems into our LVC and get them the data they needed to do this analysis,” Col. Armstrong explains.

Air combat issues were another focus of the exercise, and technology helped push the envelope. “There were approximately 500 sorties a day with the live aircraft. And 500 sorties a day are quite a few, but we really wanted to push the sortie rate up and get the 9th Air Force combined air operations center at Shaw Air Force Base into the fight. So we were able to take the virtual and constructive flights out there and use them to assist the 9th Air Force in providing 24-hour operations and the ability to plan and have its staff train to run 24-hour operations,” the colonel relates.

The JNTC learned many lessons, Col. Armstrong allows, including that it is difficult to link all these systems in such a large exercise. “But we were able to do it, and we were able to maintain the models for a long time. We had them up more than 90 percent of the time. That’s a real plus when you’re dealing with an exercise of that magnitude,” he says.

The technical complexity of CJTFEX 04-2 was on the order of what was in place for the Millennium Challenge 2002 experiment (SIGNAL, November 2002, page 49), the colonel states, but the JNTC was able to refine and improve the LVC environment for this exercise. “That resulted in some items that we really have to address now, such as the issue of how virtual and constructive aircraft—which don’t necessarily have a signature on the battlefield—are used to fight against live forces and vice versa,” he says.

The exercise revealed additional necessary improvements for the JNTC. For example, the colonel says the JNTC needs to shorten some of its testing programs. “It is a relatively labor-intensive operation, and we really do need to get smart about how we would do that. We were able to run efficiently in CJTFEX. We learned a lot about how to build and test the models and how to export the models to the various customers. And we’re implementing some of those changes now as we go through current exercises,” Col. Armstrong relates.

The CJTFEX 04-2 was the first time the JNTC used the Joint Training and Experimentation Network, the colonel explains. In the past, lines and platforms were leased; however, for this exercise, JNTC personnel worked with representatives at the various bases to set up a persistent connectivity that now resides on each base. For this exercise, 12 sites were set up.

“They all performed very well. But we learned about the infrastructure issues, and we made some decisions about how to build this capability, not only in our own building but also the actual construct of the information systems in the pods that we deploy. And we learned a lot about how we go through information security managers to make sure that the sites understand what is a JFCOM line,” he states.

Col. Armstrong relates that several issues arose with LVC forces concerning battle damage assessment (BDA). Problems occurred in ensuring that the JNTC could give the BDA systems the information they required to determine the next attack criteria for the aircraft. What is needed is an easier methodology to get information from live forces back into the system so that BDA can be tracked much quicker, he notes.

The JNTC is currently involved in a development process that will allow it to build and save multiple databases that can be put into place quickly. Rather than building them on a case-by-case basis, these databases would include models of a variety of entities—from a piece of terrain to a tactical unit to communications facilities to targets—that could be pulled together when needed.           

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