First Army Warfighter Exercise in Pacific will take on large-scale operations

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FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kansas – The Army’s next Warfighter Exercise will feature a scenario in the Pacific for the first time, according to Col. Bryan Babich, the service’s Combined Arms Center’s Mission Command Training Program commander.

The Warfighter Exercise is the Army’s capstone training event for the Corps and Division echelons and is conducted for each every two years. It’s an immersive 10-day exercise typically focused on forward passage of formational lines, long-range precision fires and a wet gap crossing, usually culminating in a transition to a defensive posture.

These exercises commonly set up a command post in the field under canvas using tactical communications. The post then relocates at least once during the exercise, allowing troops to practice the complicated and delicate balance of transferring control of systems and processes to a smaller command post, Babich said.

These exercises have previously focused on scenarios related to the Middle East, Korea and the Baltic countries in Europe, Babich told Army Secretary Christine Wormuth during a briefing here on May 21.

“We’re seeing it play out in real time today” in Europe, Babich noted.

Allies and partners have participated in previous warfighter efforts; the U.K. and France are some of the most recent participants.

Late last year, Wormuth said she envisions five core tasks for the Army in the Pacific, should a conflict break out there. The Army would be a “linchpin” for the joint force to establish and secure staging areas and joint operating bases for air and naval capability and forces and would need to be prepared to provide integrated air and missile defense and sustainment to the joint force, including secure communications networks and munitions stocks.

The service would provide command-and-control across operational echelons and also ground-based, long-range precision fires. The Army could also counterattack using its maneuver forces.

Earlier this year, Babich’s planning team met with U.S. Army Pacific Command chief Gen. Charles Flynn to make initial plans for the warfighter exercise, though it won’t kick off until September.

The exercise will include all of the core tasks Wormuth has highlighted, Babich said.

“The exercise is exactly what you would expect it to be,” he added. “It is a counter-attack in the event of an enemy incursion in an area that you would expect us to focus on in a warfighter exercise.”

In other recent Army exercises, like Pacific Pathways and Defender Pacific, the service operated in Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Japan and the Philippines as well as in a series of smaller countries. The service’s Forager exercises focused on executing operations from the second island chain into the first island chain into Asia.

The first island chain runs parallel to the mainland of the Asian continent, starting in the Kuril Islands, through the Japanese Archipelago; including Taiwan and the northwestern portion of the Philippines; and finishing in Borneo. The second island chain runs parallel to the first farther out to sea and includes Japan’s Bonin Islands and Volcano Islands; the Mariana Islands, including Guam; and the Western Caroline Islands, and extends to Western New Guinea.

Babich said Flynn wants to push the envelope in the Warfighter Exercise. “He wants to come up and come out with the outcomes that form potential gaps and what we need in terms of logistics with the [Army Prepositioned Stocks] and in terms of force structure,” Babich said.

In a break from previous exercises, the first part will focus on “Joint Forcible Entry Operations,” meaning there won’t be forces on the ground in the area of operation when the exercise starts, he said. Units will need to create windows of opportunity to move onto territory in a contested environment.

The exercise is connected to a war game series focused on 2026 which Flynn is already conducting. The scenario will take place during the same time with capability and equipment the service predicts it will have by that period.

A key consideration for this scenario is how to build and defend bases and the logistics of bringing equipment and soldiers in by boat or through an air assault, as well as how to sustain supply lines in a contested environment.

While previous exercises were focused on fires and intelligence, the Pacific scenario “really kind of reverses this with the emphasis areas on protection, logistics and command and control,” Babich said.

The event will put more emphasis on the maritime domain, but will also have a focus on cyber and space domains, which is new to the exercise, he added.

The exercise will experiment with the Extended Range Cannon Artillery system and the Precision Strike Missile, Babich said.

And the Army will stretch and test its command-and-control capability across a wide array of locations, from the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, the 4th ID out of Fort Carson, Colorado, and 1st Corps out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state as well as a potential element of the Corps on a naval vessel. Fort Leavenworth’s opposition forces and a logistics component based at Fort Lee, Virginia, will also tie into the exercise.

“It’s going to stress that [C2] system and just kind of help us build our readiness and learn where we’re challenged,” Babich said.

In a smaller event leading up to the Warfighter Exercise, the 3rd ID at Fort Stewart, Georgia, will soon run an experiment with a “penetration division structure and capabilities,” Babich noted. Fort Hood will bring observer controllers to collect data on how the division fights as a penetration division.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.



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Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.