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MC02 – Field Report #2 – 31 July 2002
by Scott R. Gourley (at Fort Irwin, California)

One of the important aspects of the Army Transformation Exercise (ATEx’02) involves the tactical integration of so-called “legacy” forces, as represented by the 82 nd Airborne Division, with “interim” forces, as represented by the emerging Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SBCT) (see associated article, “A Warfighter’s Views on Digitization, August BATTLESPACE”).

The foundation for the tactical linkage was established during the early hours of 30 July 2002 when approximately 750 paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 82 nd Airborne Division made a strategic “forced entry” onto a dry lake bed at the National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, California. Combined computer “simulated” drops of additional
airborne elements, the 82 nd began operations against NTC’s opposing force (OPFOR) designed to establish a secure airfield at the desert site.

After receiving an initial overview of the Millennium Challenge ’02 and ATEx’02 activities taking place at NTC, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, USAF General Richard Myers noted late on 30 July that “Things that are very impressive about the experiment to begin with is that we’ve got a joint experiment [Millennium Challenge] with service experiments going on underneath it that are all very well put together. So everybody is getting something out of this at all different levels: the tactical level, the operational level, and perhaps even a little bit above the operational level. We’ve also been able to put 40 to 60 different models together to build a capability to run simulations like we’ve never had before. This is the first time that we’ve been able to do this at that magnitude.”

Interim force participation in ATEx’02 focused on a single company (A Co, 5 – 20 Infantry) from the Army’s first Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), located at Fort Lewis, Washington. In the days leading up to the ATEx Early Entry/Forced Entry phase of ground operations, the first 14 of the recently delivered “Stryker” Infantry Combat Vehicles
assigned to that unit were transported from Fort Lewis to the Southern California Logistics Airfield (SCLA) (formerly George Air Force Base), located in Victorville, California, approximately 100 miles from “the box” at NTC. Initial transport was conducted by C-17 aircraft, with two Strykers carrier per C-17.

More than a month prior to ATEx02, the Army had loaded a Stryker onto a C-130 to validate the landing on NTC’s “Bicycle Lake” surface. That verification landing took place on 21 June.

In the early hours of 31 July, four of the Strykers were loaded onto C-130 tactical lift cargo aircraft for the flight from SCLA to NTC’s desert strip. An apparent lack of available pallets to distribute the weight load within the C-130 apparently led to the decision to transport some Stryker crewmen and their gear on additional aircraft

Following two C-130s loaded with equipment and personnel, the first Stryker / C-130 aircraft landed at 0700 and was quickly off-loaded and moved a short distance away where it was rapidly re-configured from aircraft transport to tactical combat configuration. A second Stryker
aircraft was then followed by two more support aircraft prior to the arrival of the last two Stryker vehicles.

With Stryker / SBCT infantrymen now on the ground to support and reinforce the paratroopers from the 82 nd Airborne Division, Army planners will be able to study and experiment with the resulting legacy force / interim force linkages.

While emphasizing the fluid nature of “experiments” versus “exercises,” ATEx’02 planners noted that schedules projected force on force tactical operations to begin on 31 July and to run for several days.

Longer range plans call for the 9 August movement of one platoon of Strykers from Bicycle Lake to SCLA for linkup and joint service “urban combat” oper

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