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by Scott R. Gourley (at Fort Irwin, California)

With the 2AM landing of a battalion of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division on the desert surrounding Fort Irwin’s “Bicycle Lake” dry lake bed, the U.S. Army Transformation Experiment 2002 (ATEx’02) took the center stage at Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC02).

Scott Gourley reports from the scene at Fort Irwin:

United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) is in the midst of conducting Millennium Challenge 02 (MC02), a Congressionally-directed experiment set in the 2007 timeframe and designed to “determine the extent to which the joint force is able to implement the principles of ‘Joint Vision 2020’ in order to execute rapid and decisive operations in this decade.” In addition, the MC02 mission statement charges planners with producing “recommendations for ensuring the success of the joint force in this type of operation.”

MC02 planners stress that the event, now three years in development, is NOT a stand-alone event, Rather, it is part of a larger iterative process that encompasses both concept development and experimentation activities.

The experiment runs from 24 July – 15 August and encompasses more than 13,500 U.S. military and civilian personnel using live forces at eight range locations in the western U.S. (National Training Center/Fort Irwin; Naval Air Station Pt. Mugu; Camp Pendleton; Western Islands; Naval Aviation Warfare Center China Lake; Nellis Air Force Base; Southern California Logistics Airfield (formerly George Air Force Base); and Yuma Proving Ground) coupled with computer simulations conducted at 17 sites across the United States.

Providing his own thoughts on the nature of “experimentation” versus “exercises,” General Buck Kernan, Commander in Chief, USJFCOM, noted on 18 July that “An exercise is when you’re going out there and basically validating your current readiness of systems, doctrine, [and] procedures that are common practice. An experiment, you’re continually fooling with the rheostat. You’re changing things. It’s an iterative process. You don’t necessarily know what your findings are going to be. There are going to be some failures. If you’re truly experimenting, you’re looking at what’s within the realm of the possible, and you don’t know until you get to it.”

USJFCOM’s MC02 “experiment” is looking at four relatively mature joint service concepts: effects based operations; standing joint force headquarters; operational net assessment; and an operational joint interagency co-ordination group.

Tying these four concepts together in a single MC02 “hypothesis” yields something along the lines of: If a standing joint force headquarters, informed by operational net assessment, employs effects based operations, then today’s joint force can have the decision superiority necessary to enable rapid and decisive operations.

Two dozen separate service initiatives are being examined under the MC02 umbrella.

Army initiatives, for example, are taking place under a subset experiment called Army Transformation Experiment (ATEx’02) that officially began on 29 July and is scheduled to run through 9 August. Examples of initiatives covered under ATEx’02 include satellite communication improvements, C4ISR architecture enhancement, and digital command and control. In addition, the imminent arrival of a company of new “Stryker” Interim Armored Vehicles (slated to be air-landed by C-130 early on 31 July) represents the first employment of “Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT)” (formerly Interim Brigade Combat Team) assets in a joint military event.

During ATEx’02, Army units are being deployed to the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, to represent the insertion of Army forces deep inside a hostile region. The headquarters of the 82nd Airborne Division, operating from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is controlling the Army units at Fort Irwin. The Seco

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