Access to the latest information on insurgent tactics in Iraq can be a decisive weapon for Army commanders prepping their units for war.
The Army, as the other services, has institutionalized the process of collecting and distributing “lessons learned” from the battlefield, but the information often does not flow to combat units quickly enough to let them adjust their own tactics before they deploy.
Among the Army units that have rotated in and out of Iraq during the past three years, the Stryker brigades appear to have perfected the lessons-learned drill by setting up a high-tech communications center at Fort Lewis, Wash., where senior leaders and junior commanders receive day-to-day feedback from deployed troops. These detailed, unfiltered reports shape their training and preparation for combat. In the process, they also have managed to stir apprehension among some Army officials who worry that the Stryker’s way of doing business sets it too far apart from the mainstream.
Gen. William S. Wallace, head of the Army Training and Doctrine Command, commended the Stryker brigades for their savvy use of information, but also cautioned that they risk isolating themselves from the rest of the Army. The Training and Doctrine Command oversees the gathering and distribution of Army lessons from the field. In response to soldiers’ widespread use of email and chat-rooms to share war lessons, last year TRADOC set up a secure web portal known as “battle command knowledge system.”
“The Stryker center for lessons learned is doing a great job,” Wallace said at an industry conference. “I like their connection to the operational force … but we need to be careful we don’t end up with multiple armies without a unified perspective.”
Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, commander of the Army I Corps and Fort Lewis, spearheaded the Stryker lessons center — known as the Bill Jacobsen Operations Center. Jacobsen was a member of the unit who died fighting in Iraq.
The facility is set up much like a tactical operations center, outfitted with computers and video-teleconferencing equipment. Fort Lewis is home to three Stryker brigades — named after their trademark vehicle, the Stryker armored personnel carrier.
Wallace acknowledged that the Stryker brigades are not alone in their distrust of the institutional Army. “The operational Army tends not to reach out to TRADOC for help. They turn onto themselves,” he said. “They are working for Gen. Dubik. He’s created it and he’s operating it.”
That said, however, “They can’t just be a satellite spinning out of control over there,” Wallace added. “There’s some fundamental things we need them to be consistent with — Army learning models, requirements, the battle command knowledge system.”
But Wallace said that despite these concerns, TRADOC might consider setting up a similar lessons center for “future combat systems” units, which are scheduled to be fielded in 2014. FCS brigades would be equipped with far more sophisticated networks and sensors. “We may develop something similar for FCS,” Wallace said. “The concern is that we can’t develop four or five different armies. We need greater Army perspective.”