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) …
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.