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02 December 2015

US Marine Corps General Officer Panel Highlights

Service general officers provided their insights on the challenges and opportunities to provide trained, mission ready Marine Corps individuals, units and staffs in the current and future operating environments.  The generals’ messages were harmonized, emphasizing affordability, open architecture, the building of decision making and other skill sets for small unit leaders and other attributes of the quickly evolving  2015-era training environment. .   

Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller gained the attention of the early morning gathering with his assertion “there is no peace. We’re busier than we ever been. My Marines tell me you are crushing us with high operating tempo.” Of little surprise the four-star general challenged the industry delegates to better help prepare his force in this high operating tempo environment. “We’re training hard but we can train smarter,” he remarked.

The service leader emphasized the need for unit, squad and other commanders to have repetitions in training. So much like aviators, vehicle crews and other Marines can learn and refresh their skills in simulators, so, too, must battlefield unit leaders be able to learn and train their mission sets time and time again – safely, economically and without constraints of time and location.
Neller candidly told the delegates “I don’t know how to do this. I need your help to tell us how we can do this better.”  

Another mission on the commandant’s radar scope for simulation enhancement was joint tactical air controller (JTAC) training. Neller asserted the service needs a better simulator to help it train more people, faster and without the current, taxing reliance of training aircraft. “We can’t afford the 12 flights needed to gain JTAC certification,” he added.                  

On another positive note, the service leader emphasized the service’s increased exercise efforts with its US Navy sea service team members in the RIMPAC (Pacific), Bold Alligator (Atlantic) and other events around the globe – and their increased use of the live, virtual, constructive (LVC) training environment. He concluded, “We will never be able to totally replicate the real environment, but we can augment and enhance it.”
Brigadier General Ray Descheneaux, the assistant deputy commandant for aviation at the Pentagon, noted that his service has 93 simulators to support its 1,300 manned aircraft and unmanned air systems. While the service’s aviation training system is undergoing significant change – there are opportunities for industry to support the Marine Corps’ aviation training roadmap.

By 2019 the Marine Corps will have 175 aviation simulators – enabling aircrews to achieve about 43 to 45% of their training readiness tasks in these training devices.

The service one-star general also asserted the LVC must also migrate into and beyond Marine Expeditionary Force exercises and other events, but with the caveat that live flying will remain critical to establishing an aviator’s core training competency.

Descheneaux also noted he needs industry’s help to allow current networks and systems to “talk to one another” validating the importance of open architecture; improve the flow of data and content between air, ground and logistic systems – in particular in a secure environment; and in general, train better and faster.       

Brigadier General Joe Shrader, the commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, issued a call for a “good business case” for service simulation and training investments, emphasizing the importance on developing return on investments in system development – with good reason. In one case, he pointed out it costs about (US)$5.3 million to supply an annual supply of live training ammunition for  an artillery crew.    

Major General James Lukeman, the commanding general at US Marine Corps Training and Education Command, again challenged industry representatives to help fill some of the "gaps" in his service's training programs.

Lukeman cited the importance to move beyond capable but very expensive infantry immersion training systems. These devices typically need a large infrastructure in terms of role players, and contract support for after action review, instrumentation and other technology enablers. “We need to bring these and other systems to the Marine. While the new generation of system must be affordable it must also be easy to use, deployable on ships and ‘Marine proof’ (rugged),” he emphasized.         

The Quantico, Virginia-based general also repeated his call for industry to focus on decision making for leaders at the small unit levels.

Brigadier General Julian Alford, the commanding general at his Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory built on his extensive combat experience to assert the training audience must move beyond the “three block war” training framework used throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a “four floor war” construct – where concurrent missions ranging from hand-to-hand combat to tending to refugees may be occurring in the same, large, tall building in an urban venue. “We need to train to how do you fight and secure these type buildings,” he added.    

Conference Floor Trends                                
One of the interesting developments at this year’s I/ITSEC was the increased, visible presence of non-US companies on the exhibition hall floor. Indeed, 10 Brazil-based companies comprised the Brazilian Defense and Security Industries Association booth. Two of the participating companies at the booth that caught our attention were Oniria (demonstrating its Games Division’s portfolio for gaming development in the training and education sectors) and Truckvan (highlighting its virtual shooting simulator mobile unit product line).

The Training Solutions business unit of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Elm was also at this year’s I/ITSEC. The company delivers an expanding list of training to its Saudi customers in counter-terrorism, firearms/shooting, patrolling and other competencies.

Marty Kauchak

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