When the Army isn’t fighting, it’s training.  And to train for war, you have to have an enemy to train against.*  Normally, at home station, units train “cowboys and Indian” style, where one unit undergoing its training cycle is the cowboys, and another unit is tasked to provide the Indians for the training event. Later in the cycle, the units will  switch roles.  When you play the Indians, you’re known as the Opposing Force, or OpFor.

Sometimes, however, you need a more specific OpFor than the generic bad guys your fellow units can portray. The Army has a handful of units that do this full time, much as the Navy and the Air Force have used Aggressor Squadrons to train their fighter pilots. And to give the exercises some “flavor” the Army has a canned political background explaining the battles to be fought in training. For years, our most common foe has been the nation of “Krasnovia.”

This article from DoDBuzz, however, shows an instance where a very specific OpFor has been generated to test a very specific scenario.  Rather than being a regular training cycle, the exercise is testing the next iteration of networking on the battlefield, known as WIN-T (I’ll leave it to Craig to discuss the challenges of running an internet on a battlefield):

Move over Krasnovia. The Army would like to introduce the Islamic Congress of Attica, the Wolf Brigade, the Ellisian Army and the Islamic Brotherhood for Jihad.

Each is a fiction enemy just like “Krasnovia.” And like Krasnovia, each has a comparable real world threat here during the Network Integration Evaluation much in the same way that Krasnovia represented the Soviet Union.

The Army has chosen each to represent the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Iran’s special operations Quds force and a mechanized Hezbollah. These are the threats the Army expects to face in the next ten to fifteen years. Those, at least, are the threats that U.S. Training and Doctrine Command have chosen to attack the soldiers at the NIE testing the Army’s next generation of communications gear.

Lt. Col. Andre Balyoz, the 2nd Engineer Battalion commander, commands the opposing force here responsible for taking on a brigade sized force with the best communications gear the Army has to offer. It’s his job to test the Warfighter Information Network — Tactical (WIN-T) …

Two thoughts.

1. I’m a little surprised Big Army allowed the notional forces to actually name the enemy as Islamic in nature.  Sure, it reflects the current reality. But it also is bait for groups such as CAIR to go nuts and try to force the Army to cave to PC pressure. Announcing that our enemies tend to have Islamic roots is rude, you see.

2. Building a hybrid OpFor such as is this in keeping with the evolving doctrine of the Army. I’ve written a little about how the Army sees the next battlefield. Take a look at the evolution of Army doctrine here.   The Army believes that no longer will it face either a purely force-on-force scenario, or a COIN situation, but rather face a combination of the two, or rather a full spectrum of opposition ranging from protests in the streets, through insurgencies, terrorists, to semi-state sponsored paramilitary forces up through regular formations of the enemy. Worse, it can expect to face all those threats concurrently, and across the entire theater of operations.  That’s going to be a very tough intellectual challenge for leaders at all levels.


*In fact, an overview of the Combat Training Centers is something I should write up.

2 thoughts on “OpFor”

  1. Sadly, in my experience, CMTC and JRTC were complete wastes of training
    time. All I learned at CMTC is that opfor are scumsucking cheating bastards.

    All I learned at JRTC is that opfor are royal scumsucking cheating bastards.

    OCs were scumsucking cheating bastards because they gave opfor a
    SALUTE report on our position, group strength and intent each time we
    moved. Each time we obeyed the rules and reported to the oc our actions,
    the opfor “mysteriously” discovered us in a “chance contact”.

    Always with overwhelming numbers . . . absolute coincidence, certainly.

    In no way was any of it realistic, with hostiles sabotaging their MILES
    harness – they NEVER used a Halo – with spray paint and excessive ghille
    strips to mask sensors. I saw the ghillie strip at distance, the spray paint at
    touching distance. Then I was ready to kill the bastards for real. They used
    the paintball rules of cover and concealment, employing bushes and three
    inch sapplings as their means of avoiding fire . . . with the OC’s watching EVERYTHING. Including the crazy-eyed bastard who pulled a REAL knife
    on me.

    Apparently, the “God Gun” – AND common sense – was out of juice.

    I was out of patience . . . AND kind feelings . . .

    So I shot the knife-wielding psycho in the face at near point blank range,
    then charged and used the Captain Kirk “Flying Double Kick!™” on the
    Sierra Bird’s sappling . . . and the sappling whipped back and broke his
    nose. Used their own tactics against them, which consisted of: shoot a
    couple of blanks, then charge and yell “Close Kill, Sucka!”

    Then laugh. Repeat as METT-C requires.

    After the Sierra Bird’s nose, I jumped into a natural defilade of a drainage
    channel they were using as cover and ran the line, whacking and punching
    opfor in the back of the head for a close kill. They had no idea anyone was
    on them, as they were too busy shooting a bunch of “dead” Screaming
    Eagle Rakkasans repeatedly.

    I “killed” over thirty opfor scumbags in and around that defilade. I was “the
    lone Survivor” when the rest of the Platoon and Company linked up with
    our cut off Squad-Plus. Did nothing to help my mood, especially when my
    team leader – another Specialist, but with Little Man Disease and Delusions
    of Competence™ – would not shut up about my improper tactics and staying
    behind when he told me to abandon the “dead and wounded”.

    Abandoning dead and wounded . . . Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot, over?!

    One of the two “dead” Squad Leaders, a former Marine, recounted to
    the Platoon Sergeant it was a “One-Man off-Broadway Play of Custer’s
    Last Stand, but Custer won.”

    I earned the respect of a Devil Dog, which finally made it better.

    The OC came up and said I was going to be hauled up for, at minimum,
    a Field Grade for assaulting the opfor whose nose I broke and for opening
    fire in someone’s face within five feet. I pointed to the crazy-eyed opfor,
    sitting on the ground moaning, faking injuries and claiming to be blind –
    while he watched everything – and recounted nothing was done when a
    real knife was pulled. Nor was any corrective action taken when the
    others clearly violated the rules of action by using brush and sapplings
    as cover, instead of taking their hits. I had enough witnesses – minus my
    team leader – who were willing to support my version of events. I earned
    points for being “That Crazy, Pissed Off Paratrooper from Vicenza”

    It went away.

    Later, I was “God Gunned” with some other guys. The OC caught the
    attention of a fire team of opfor, who came sniffing around to “execute”
    survivors, and one began to paw at me saying: “What chu’ got fer’ me,

    That was when I grabbed him by the face and shoved him away, pulling
    MY knife, promising I would slit his cheating throat if he touched me. That
    he and all his butt-buddies were wasting our time just to stroke their own
    egos, putting our lives in danger by compromising our training.

    I had my fill of their nonsense.

    Once finally out of “The Box”, I went to the PX to get personal hygiene
    items when I overheard some opfor – identified by black BDUs – bragging
    about their hundreds of “confirmed kills” and how they beat “The Hundred
    and Worst”. They found me in their face, pulling on their right sleeves,
    which were absent a combat flash. I demanded to know if either of them
    had deployed to either iraq or afghanistan.

    Neither had seen the world outside of polk in their entire Army careers,
    four and five years. Neither took nor fired a round in anger.

    Both are so damned lucky I did not hurt them.

    I hate MOS opfor only slightly less than I hate haji.

    And I hate haji more than Captain Ahab hated the White Whale . . .

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