Prep Team Returns From Afghanistan

November 30, 2010
by Maryann Lawlor
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Members of the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Enabling Capabilities (JEC) Command arrived home from Afghanistan and the first major operational use of the Ready JEC Package (RJP) just in time to join their families for the Thanksgiving holiday. The RJP, which comprises operators and planners, assisted in establishing the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command (IJC), a joint task force headquarters, in Kabul.

At the beginning of the three-month deployment, the 25 RJP team members were dispersed throughout Kabul to gather up the people they would need to train in order to set up and operate the IJC. Some found this separation to be the toughest part of the deployment because the team members are trained to collaborate. Despite being separated, all of the group members focused on the mission: setting up a headquarters that could then be taken over by the Afghanistan National Security Forces and coalition troops.

The JFCOM set up the JECC to ensure the availability of such mission-ready quick support to commanders (SIGNAL Magazine, December 2008, page 39). Members of the JECC help establish and increase the effectiveness of newly forming headquarters by assisting in the integration of air, land, maritime and information capabilities at the operational level.

 In preparation for its first operational deployment, Ready JEC team members located in Suffolk, Virginia, discuss conditions in Afghanistan with in-theater commanders via videoconferencing.

The joint deployable teams, such as the one that went to Afghanistan, concentrate their efforts in four areas: operations, plans, information superiority/knowledge management and logistics. The group from the JECC is trained to understand the operational environment, to plan fully integrated joint operations, to coordinate unified actions with mission partners, to prepare appropriate directives and orders for subordinate tactical formations, and to adjust operational-level plans rapidly. Once these activities are set into motion, the joint task force commander in the region takes the reins and moves forward with operations.

When the RJP team arrives at its destination, its job is to get the headquarters working before the rest of the troops arrive so lag time between the start of the mission and initial operational capability is kept to a minimum. On this first of what is likely to be many missions, the RJP operated quickly once on the ground in Kabul in late August; it achieved its own initial operational capability by mid-October. It then began developing plans and operations for the IJC that will be executed during the next 12 to 18 months.

Although the JECC group was able to achieve its mission in short order, it doesn’t mean that the deployment’s task was without challenges. Among the top hurdles to overcome were the cultural differences among the various nations involved in the coalition. For example, while the U.S. military is accustomed to planning missions and operations down to the very last detail, other countries’ militaries take a more hands-off approach, preferring instead to issue a commander’s intent and leave it up to the troops to determine how to achieve it.

Part of RJP team training is a planner’s course and participation in joint exercises at the operational level. Members of this deployment agreed that this preparation was helpful in addressing the cultural issues they encountered. However, one lesson learned from this first effort was that while the preparation that takes place in classrooms and exercises is useful, plans can make swift turns when introduced into an area of operations.

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