The exercise directly trained more than 5,300 joint warfighters and accomplished training objectives for 12 training audiences using more than two dozen different systems connecting seven sites across the country.
WFX 21-1 was not initially planned for 12 training audiences, but when WFX 20-4 and 20-5 was canceled due to the COVID-19; their TAs moved to WFX 21-1. To ensure Army warfighters were adequately trained for current and emerging mission sets, WFX 21-1 increased its training audience by over 2,300 personnel.
The 505th CCW Detachment 1, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, served as the Air Force’s liaison during WFX 21-1 and replicated doctrinally correct air component capabilities to the Army warfighters.
“The purpose of the WFX is to train U.S. Army two & three-star division and corps commanding generals and their staffs on (large-scale combat operations); an Army chief of staff directive to ready Soldiers for great power competition after 19-years of counterinsurgency,” said Air Force Col. Michael Goodman, 505th CCW, Det 1 commander.
WFX 21-1 trained three Army primary training audiences. The XVIII Airborne Corps, 82nd Airborne Division, and the 1st Cavalry Division, and their respective subordinate units were trained to meet National Defense Strategy requirements.
WFX events are geared toward the tactical level of war during LSCO using a hybrid near-peer adversary. While the adversary’s name doesn’t match any known country, the terrain, equipment, and tactics used are based on real-world places, assets, and capabilities. WFX 21-1 was designed to train, rehearse, team build, and contribute to the Army’s overall combat preparation.
“Approximately 200 Airmen participated in WFX 21-1 from five locations throughout the CONUS,” Goodman said. “Perhaps most importantly, was the support of the 505th Combat Training Squadron, and 505th Communications Squadron, who provide the Air Operations Center RC (response cell) and communication infrastructure.”
Goodman continued, “an RC is a small team that has the capability to replicate a much larger entity, often by a factor of 10 or even 100; e.g., a 60-member AOC RC replicates a 1,000-member AOC to include some of the fighters and multi-place aircraft.”
Additionally, Army partners from the Army Joint Support Team and XVIII ABC leveraged the 505th CS’s Joint Targeting Toolbox to create a joint targeting database for future WFXs. Using this targeting database, the training audience could conduct legitimate target development in the pre-STARTEX phase of a WFX using the appropriate Army Battle Command System and doctrinal processes.
“During execution, training audiences will be able to use those same doctrinally correct ABCS and processes to nominate targets, both dynamic and planned, to the joint force for execution,” Goodman said. “This capability enables Army warfighters to practice how they fight. WFX 21-1 was the first WFX to leverage and test this new targeting database.”
Based on WFX 21-1’s training objectives and audience locations, the 505th CS designed and connected a realistic cyberspace environment that could seamlessly exchange mission and model systems data between Air Force and Army warfighters across seven training locations. This data exchange is critical to any desired interactions and overall exercise fidelity.
Additionally, with three major training audiences, there was a requirement to apportion airpower in line with the joint force commander vision, which required the training audiences to communicate more with one another and request capabilities instead of specific assets, enabling more efficient use of limited airpower.
“Ultimately, this (environment) allowed USAF participants to provide air injects and role player responses to U.S. Army warfighters undergoing critical operational-level command and control exercise execution,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Veronica Williams, 505th CS commander, Hurlburt Field. “The 505th CS’s C4I (command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence) and modeling and simulation systems created a common operating picture which allowed the U.S. Army training audience to view and train in a realistic cyberspace environment as close to what they would be viewing during real-world operations while interacting with an air operations center.”
While this was the ‘largest warfighter exercise on record,’ the training audience’s increase presented few challenges to the 505th CTS.
“They proved up to the challenge with our professional control force, and pilot role-players, handling several aircraft and integrations simultaneously. This is why while they are not the only option available for capability sourcing, they are always the training audiences’ first choice,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Applegate, 505th CTS director of operations, Hurlburt Field.
The model and simulation team takes over the air tasking order in execution and includes model controllers and professional control force and pilot role-players. Model controllers oversee the virtual battlespace and all the entities it contains and the physical system connections that allow it to be seen by the training audiences. The professional control force and pilot-role players provided the fidelity and physical representation of tactical units and systems that enable realism and human interactions across the full spectrum of military operations, including high fidelity and responsive command and control, deliberate or dynamic strike, close air support, intelligence collections, and reporting, air mobility, personnel recovery, and combat search and rescue.
Applegate continued, “Air doctrine, which relates directly to AOC replication, focuses on large force conflict and COCOM (combatant command) to global span of command and control. For this reason, our involvement and participation largely remained unchanged as the AOC processes and outcome in the air tasking order are the same whether planning small scale regional engagement or large force action. The Part Task Trainer air simulation system was designed to handle this level of detail and is in the baseline for the AOCs attached to the geographic combatant commands.”
WFX 21-1 met all training objectives for the Army major combat units involved and senior leaders from both services.