By Chad Storlie:
What Are The US Army Combat Training Centers (CTC)? The US Army has won nearly every tactical victory over its enemies for the last 30 years. From the Panama Invasion in 1991, to Gulf War I and Gulf War II in Iraq, US Army units have distinguished themselves as especially well trained and technologically adept, enabling them to win quickly and decisively in face-to-face ground combat. Even in Afghanistan, tactical challenges such as the Battle of Wanat were eventually stalemated due to superior tactical skills by US Army units. A great deal of Army success at the tactical level can be directly attributed to the extensive use of a network of Combat Training Centers. There are three primary CTCs; one in Louisiana (Joint Readiness Training Center – JRTC), one in California (National Training Center – NTC), and one in Germany (Joint Multinational Readiness Center).
The Role of the US Army Combat Training Centers. The CTCs give military units exactly what they need; challenging, maybe impossible, back-to-back mission sets with an aggressive and independent Opposition Force (OPFOR) in challenging terrain with minimal time available for planning. The CTCs are staffed by a trained, independent, and large force of teachers or coaches called Observer – Controllers (OCs). OCs supervise the war games as well as conduct extensive After Action Reviews (AARs) that seek to help military units become progressively better during the rotation to ensure they have a complete training plan when they complete the CTC rotation. CTCs are the graduate school of military training, yet they are run and operated with a coaching-style mindset that equally values mistakes, education, performance, leadership, and improvement. There are few current or former Army leaders (and I stand as one of them) that have not been humbled in the intense and unforgiving wargames that the CTCs embody.
The Critical Importance of Combat Training Centers in Training to Win During War. The CTCs play a central role in the US Army’s protocol for training to fight and win the nation’s land battles. US Army units during the Cold War learned how to fight and defeat a larger adversary during their CTC rotations at Hohenfehls, Germany. Simultaneously, Army units also practiced how to fight and win in the desert at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, CA. Airborne, Infantry, Ranger, and Special Operations Forces (SOF) honed their skills in the thick vegetation of Fort Polk, LA. The CTCs primary role is to teach, train, correct, and then re-train the US Army combat forces to win when they are at war.
The US Military Re-Balance to the Pacific. For the fiscal years of 2016 and 2017, the Department of Defense (DoD) Budget Guidance has spelled out in detail the vital importance of a rebalance of US Defense initiatives with a greater focus on capabilities, presence, and deterrence in Asia and the Pacific. This is spurred by the growing economic importance of Asia, the continued threat from North Korea, the growing importance of China (as a friend and foe at the same time), and the understanding of the centrality of Asia and the Pacific to a secure United States. What has not followed is a US Army understanding of the importance of Asia and the Pacific to its mission to win the nation’s land wars.
The US Army Needs a Combat Training Center in the Pacific. The best way for the US Army to rebalance to the Pacific is to open a CTC in the Pacific region, as quickly as possible. A Pacific CTC would be operated and staffed like the CTCs in the United States and Germany with a world-class OPFOR, Observer-Controller’s using the latest doctrine, and exercises designed to teach units how to win in the Pacific region. Furthermore, a Pacific CTC would continue the integration of operations with the Air Force and incorporate the US Marines and the US Navy as co-partners in the Pacific CTC rotations. Finally, allied Pacific forces from nations such as Japan, Korea, and Australia could come to train their forces to operate cohesively and effectively alongside US forces in the Pacific.
A great initial rotation training concept for a Pacific CTC would be training how to organize, direct, and plan for the coordination of ground forces for relief of civilian populations effected by a Tsunami or earthquake. Like all CTC rotations, the planning, coordination, and execution of logistics over the vastness of the expanse of the Pacific would be a great exercise and learning experience for the vital roles that support ground combat operations.
The Time Is Now for a Pacific CTC. The DOD Guidance for a Pacific Rebalance is a slow recognition on the tremendous importance of a peaceful and prosperous Asia and Pacific region is for the United States. The role of the CTCs in the success of US Army ground tactical operations demonstrates that CTCs are worth every budgeted dollar due to the success that they produce in battlefield results. For the US Army to fully support a re-balance to the Pacific, it must establish a Pacific CTC that will continue the tradition of US Army battlefield excellence and training in the vital Asian region.
Chad Storlie is an OpsLens Contributor and retired Lieutenant Colonel with 20-plus years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. Chad is author of two books: “Combat Leader to Corporate Leader” and “Battlefield to Business Success.” Both books teach how to translate and apply military skills to business. He has been published in The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and over 40 other publications. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University. Follow Chad @Combattocorp.