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I/ITSEC NEWS: Allies Look to Incorporate Ukraine War Lessons Into Training

11/29/2023
By Stew Magnuson
Maj. Gen. Serhi Salkutsan, Ukraine’s military representative to NATO

Stew Magnuson photo

ORLANDO — Ukraine has been forced to train 100,000 new warfighters all while engaging in a fight for its life with Russia.

The U.S. military and its allies and partners have taken note of Ukraine’s success holding off its much larger opponent — along with the new tactics, techniques and procedures being employed by both sides in the conflict. How to quickly learn lessons from the war and incorporate them into training is vital, panelists said Nov. 29 at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in Orlando, sponsored by the National Training and Simulation Association.

While 100,000 new recruits may sound like a lot, “it is not enough,” said Maj. Gen. Serhii Salkutsan, Ukraine’s military representative to NATO said during a panel discussion. This is a war of attrition, and while Russia is losing an estimated 500 to 1,000 warfighters per day, it is able to replenish its forces with 15,000 to 25,000 personnel per month, he said.

Meanwhile Ukraine is doing basic training, teaching recruits specialized skills on new weapon systems being donated by allies, and creating new officers — all while their facilities are under the threat of attack, he noted.

Rolf Wagner, deputy director of the George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies, questioned whether allies can capture lessons learned from the Ukraine war and incorporate them into their own training. Like Ukraine, they need to learn to “train while they fight.”

“Our training must evolve to be more interoperable, more resilient, more agile, matching the pace of modern operations,” he said. One key barrier is data sharing among allies.

“Inadequate information sharing among allies and partners can significantly impact our success,” particularly in the area of training, Wagner said. “The fast pace of modern warfare demands that the integration of training solution developments [is] deliberately aligned with the operational tempo,” he added.

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, deputy director of joint training on the Joint Staff, J7, said he would argue that there are currently some barriers in place that preclude the U.S. military from learning lessons from the Ukraine conflict. A change of mindset is needed from learning lessons reactively to learning proactively. The United Stated does well identifying and reacting to a crisis and learning lessons but needs to look forward.

“One thing that Ukraine shows us is that certain battlefield tactics endure — think trench warfare, mass on mass fighting,” he said. “Technology is driving new ways of thinking about how we fight and how we execute warfare,” he said.

“Ukraine is learning under the crucible of combat,” he added.

One lesson from Ukraine: exquisite technology isn’t going to win the war, but rather the human adoption of it and human ingenuity in using it, Vasely said.

As for information and data sharing that can help incorporate lessons into training, it’s not only a problem between partners and allies, but within the Defense Department, he said. “We are working to update the processes, procedures, authorities, to make it easier to share, to incentivize, to reduce those barriers so that we can actually learn from each other,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Curtis Buzzard, commander of the Army Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Moore, said he has incorporated some key lessons from Ukraine, namely the use of electronic warfare and loitering munitions. There was a time when he never “had to look up” and never had to worry about using his radio.

Now, “everyone from the privates to the colonels” leave Fort Moore with training learned from Ukraine’s experiences on how to detect and defeat small drones as well as how to fly them.

Officers are also all learning how to be “data literate,” or how to employ and leverage data, he added.

Buzzard said this is at an “inflection point in history.” Incorporating 80 percent of lessons learned is better than striving for 100 percent and not incorporating anything. “We’re in a dangerous place, and we all need to have a sense of urgency,” he added.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Education and Training Caroline Baxter, said past training “is not nearly as complex as what we’re on the cusp of demanding from the Joint Force.”

“To train while we fight presents a steep challenge in difficulty that requires much more technology and combined arms, but more so requires a fundamental shift — a true revolution — in our use of time, human cognition and human agency,” she said.

Wagner said: “The future requires preparing for these looming threats by strengthening institutional partnerships for knowledge and collective resource sharing to identify areas where to adopt new methodologies and train while we fight.”

 

Topics: Training and Simulation

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