When the U.S. Army Central commanding general, Lt. Gen. Michael Garrett, recently published his “Enduring Priorities,” his first priority was “readiness,” mirroring the number one priority of the Army Chief of Staff.
Garrett outlined his expectation that ARCENT subordinate units focus on building a “fight tonight” mentality and level of readiness that is sustainable over time. He specified that units and commands hone knowledge of their wartime mission, rehearsing and validating actions and tasks directed by contingency plans.
As it relates to relationships with host nations and allies, his direction and intent are clear — ensure partnership interoperability and coalition warfighting readiness.
This readiness is the process of building, nurturing and maintaining relationships with host nation partners. Many times, when it comes to host nation relationships, this line of effort is captured under the heading of theater security cooperation, or TSC. This acronym has gained a more skeptical definition, “tea, sports, and conversation,” hinting that at times TSC efforts can lose focus on building real coalition warfighting readiness.
This is not to denigrate the building of personal relationships with host nation partners through personal engagements that may involve less mission-focused activities. But, it is also not meant to replace the realistic and intense combined training exercises that must be planned and executed to build trust and confidence, not just in personal interactions, but in warfighting capabilities.
As it relates to coalition warfighting readiness with Kuwait and our partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council, the crosshairs of effort focus quickly on Integrated Air and Missile Defense Operations. The opportunities in conducting TSC engagements related to IAMD, especially in connection to our common threat, make efforts and initiatives in building coalition warfighting readiness in this key warfighting capability of very high value and payoff.
Using the ARCENT CG’s priorities and the ARCENT Campaign Plan to set our left and right limits, as well as ensuring we remained within the commander’s intent of both the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command and the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade, the Soldiers and leadership of 4th Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment (I STRIKE!) made significant advancements and achieved noteworthy success in improving the joint/combined coalition warfighting readiness of both our sister services, as well as our host nation counterparts.
The battalion’s success was made possible by the historically consistent efforts of Patriot battalions that fulfilled the recurring mission and rotation through Kuwait, laying a foundation from which the “I STRIKE” Battalion was able to build.
Maj. Gen. William Hickman, ARCENT (Operations) deputy commanding general, described the “I STRIKE” Battalion’s TSC efforts as having “clearly made strides in a constant effort,” and “achieving advances” in a line of effort that requires significant commitment as a top priority for the defense of the entire region.
He described the GCC’s common threat as the driver for all stakeholders to be involved each and every day and cautioned that any effort by rotational units must be sustainable and able to be replicated.
“It must be the plan for Kuwait, not just the plan of a singular rotational Patriot battalion,” said Hickman.
BUILDING SUSTAINABLE COALITION WARFIGHTING READINESS
Nearly a year ago, the battalion was in the field preparing for its final mission readiness exercise. On the dry erase boards that covered the walls of the Mission Command Training Center at Fort Sill, Okla., the battalion initiated what would eventually become a four-prong plan to address how it would achieve coalition warfighting readiness, in relationship to IAMD operations with its Kuwaiti partners.
The four-prong approach would address maintenance/operational readiness, joint/combined air battles, AMD planning and defense design, and contingency plan rehearsals and validation.
In the past 25 years of our military relationship with Kuwaiti Air Defense Forces, U.S. Patriot units have conducted a host of different combined training events with our host nation. These events have included a Kuwaiti-only Patriot Missile Live Fire Exercise, in which the U.S. were observers only.
Additionally, U.S. Patriot units have conducted combined air battle simulations, integrating the Kuwaiti Patriot information coordination central into the Joint Kill Chain. Finally, U.S. Patriot units have routinely conducted remote launch operations exercises, in which U.S. Patriot units take over command and control of KADF Patriot Launchers.
Following a transfer of authority with the outgoing unit, the “I STRIKE” Battalion immediately initiated planning and actions to continue capitalizing on the gains of previous units. Combined training events between U.S. and Kuwaiti Patriot units typically and historically have revolved around combined participation in and observation of IAMD exercises, as one would expect.
However, maintenance operations and operational readiness was immediately identified as an easy, intuitive way to expand our efforts with the Kuwaitis that would be mutually beneficial. The battalion’s Maintenance Company, Readiness Center, Electronic Missile Maintenance and Intermediate Support Element, are not typically heavily involved with TSC efforts. This was about to change.
MAINTENANCE AND OPERATIONAL READINESS
In the heat of Kuwait, operational readiness (O/R) rates, particularly when they suffer, are most often, but not always, correlated to high temperatures, along with the typical summer unit transitions. Simply put, low O/R rates are typically blamed on the heat and unit/leadership transition. In fact, this myth and correlation have grown into a near universally accepted fact.
But, it is not fact. Commanders please take note. The fact is that a unit’s O/R rate is more correlated with the quality of their maintenance program in garrison than with any environmental challenges they may face in the AOR.
A unit with high O/R rates in garrison with a strong commander/leader emphasis on maintenance will do well and overcome environmental challenges quickly. Units that lack command emphasis on maintenance in garrison will do poorly and face a steep learning curve. With a deep bench of leadership in the battalion having experienced multiple rotations through Kuwait, our intent was to avoid excuses and focus on a simple plan.
Every good unit will implement a maintenance program that focuses on operator-level maintenance (traditional PMCS) combined with leader presence and engagement. However, to take it to the next level requires additional efforts. Our plan was straightforward. In addition to the basics of every Battalion Maintenance Plan, we would augment our efforts with the following initiatives:
- Conduct deep maintenance and cleaning of the Patriot radar on a monthly basis.
- Focus on “precision maintenance,” i.e. identifying specific parts for repair or replacement, versus entire (and very expensive) components, thus gaining costs-savings in historically high maintenance expenditures.
- Shrink customer wait time for repair parts — Logisticians moving parts faster to our maintainers, allowing them to fix equipment faster.
- Formalize, build and expand our inter-theater parts movement process via recurring traditional Air Force “grey tail” flights, but also non-traditional U.S. Army “white tail” C-12 aircraft flight routes.
- Formalize, build and expand our parts-sharing agreement with KADF, dusting off a pre-existing Acquisition & Cross-Servicing Agreement.
The plan worked. In fact, the O/R rates in Kuwait across both U.S. and KADF improved dramatically. Our “precision maintenance” initiative saved money. Counter to historical spending practices, the “I STRIKE” Battalion took pride in under-spending on maintenance costs, while retaining the highest Patriot unit O/R rates in the CENTCOM Area of Operations.
By spearheading parts movement via normal C-12 aircraft flight routes, not only were we able to shrink CWT in Kuwait, but throughout the CENTCOM AOR. This meant that the entire Patriot force in CENTCOM experienced improved O/R rates.
Additionally, by sharing resources between U.S. and KADF through ACSA, a symbiotic affect was achieved, improving O/R rates internal to Kuwait. The “rule” that O/R rates are inversely correlated to temperature and transition was disproved.
The key to high O/R rates is allowing our expert logisticians to expedite the movement of parts, getting the right parts into the hands of our expert maintainers. The results were recognized by both the ARCENT commanding general and deputy commanding general (Operations), and the best practices the “I STRIKE” Battalion developed were shared throughout the 32nd AAMDC.
“TOGETHER WE FIGHT” — NETTED JOINT/COMBINED AIR BATTLES
As mentioned, conducting “air battle” simulations with KADF counterparts is a staple of Patriot Battalion TSC efforts in Kuwait. However, within the past few years, Kuwait Air Defense Forces have become their own military service.
They are no longer a subordinate branch of the Kuwait Air Force (KAF). This development opens up fundamental issues that must be addressed both internally to the Kuwaiti military and externally in how U.S. Patriot battalions train with KADF. Just as with the U.S. military, cross-service communication and information flow between the KAF and KADF can be challenged by inter-service stovepipes, processes, and rivalries.
Cross-service communication and information flow must enable wartime operations. Impediments to accurate and timely communications between KAF and KADF could result in fratricide. To ensure that we were doing everything within our power to avoid the potential for fratricide, the “I STRIKE” Battalion expanded the traditional combined training exercise regimen normally exercised between U.S. and KADF Patriot Units.
We based the basics on simulated air battles, but to enhance the exercises, we slowly built a “crawl, walk, run” concept that would begin with the traditional exercises at the battery-level.
We then slowly built to a culminating exercise that would include participation and involvement by each Patriot site across Kuwait, U.S. embedded Patriot personnel working inside of the KADF ICC, as well as U.S. Air Force Air Defense Liaison Teams working within the KAF Combined Air Operations Center.
For future U.S. Patriot battalions heading to Kuwait, the “I STRIKE” Battalion’s attempts to conduct this exercise hit some bumps as we tried to facilitate an inter-service training event. There is definitely room for improving exercises, communications, coordination and execution at this level that focus on facilitating information and data flow between U.S. Patriot, KADF, and KAF operations cells to ensure a common operating picture, target identification, and deconfliction of fires.
An additional recommendation, moving forward, is to fully integrate Kuwait and our GCC Partners into recurring planning conferences and contingency plan rehearsals, to include the bi-annual, CFACC-led Air and Missile Defense Exercise (AMDEX), beyond a “GCC day” that creates a break in true joint/combined training, but throughout the entire exercise.
IRON FALCON 16-01 — AMD PLANNING AND DEFENSE DESIGN WORKSHOP
Over the course of the next two years, KADF will be adding two additional Patriot batteries to their force structure. It is crucial that as these batteries are fielded and integrated into the greater defense of Kuwait that they support an overarching, evolving defense design that provides a comprehensive defense of critical geo-political and military assets.
Past U.S. Patriot unit TSC efforts have rarely, if ever, focused on or included combined defense design development and sharing of tactics, techniques and procedures. Additionally, there were opportunities to expand these topics to include general radar theory and command and control ‘best practices.’
To expand historical TSC efforts, “I STRIKE” developed Operation IRON FALCON 16-01. The purpose of this operation was to improve and develop the tactical and technical knowledge of select KADF company-grade officers in the Patriot weapon system’s capabilities and limitations.
The battalion’s “top gun” qualified officers, working with Raytheon and the Office of Military Cooperation — Kuwait (OMC-K), developed a workshop that would provide a venue and material, based on a fictional defense design scenario, that would drive a final culminating exercise outbrief to the Kuwait Air Defense Brigade commander.
Every aspect of the workshop would be conducted in KADF workspace using open source information and Foreign Military Sales equipment including KADF-owned Tactical Planner Workstations and software. In the end, graduates of the workshop would have a much more comprehensive understanding of their own hardware/software capabilities as well as a more tactical and technical grounding in the capabilities, limitations and command and control of their own Patriot weapon systems.
The graduation ceremony featured Maj. Gen. Hickman as the guest speaker, reinforcing not only our commitment to both the TSC events and exercises being conducted, but also to the importance of our relationship.
Hickman remarked of the workshops and collaboration in his speech that it was above and beyond past efforts evolving from “routine things being done routinely,” but to a higher level, creative approach to TSC and conducting “non-routine events in a truly new and non-routine way,” referencing author Thomas Friedman’s comments in his book, co-authored by Michael Mandelbaum, “That Used to Be Us.”
There is, however, room for improvement in how we continue to develop this effort and initiative. By creating and launching a “Top Gun Course” for Kuwait and the GCC countries, not only would the best and brightest among our KADF counterparts be identified and provided the opportunity to participate in advanced exercises and knowledge sharing, but a resident expertise would be built within KADF that would take KADF technical and tactical knowledge and abilities to a whole new level.
“TOGETHER WE WIN” — CONTINGENCY PLAN REHEARSAL AND VALIDATION
On arrival into Kuwait, the outgoing battalion, in a competitive and good-natured manner, challenged the “I STRIKE” Battalion to exercise directed contingency operations within 60 days of our transfer of authority. They had been able to complete the task within 60 days and well-understood that it would be a healthy challenge for us to do the same. We knew that we were every bit as willing and able as the outgoing battalion and eagerly took the challenge.
Within 45 days of transfer of authority, “ABLE Battery” not only certified every crew through the battalion’s stringent Operational Readiness Evaluation program, but planned and executed a three-day exercise to their assigned contingency site, moving a minimum engagement package over 60 miles with all support elements and personnel, plugging into the Joint Kill Chain and conducting netted Air Battles with the Battalion. This was only the beginning.
More than just validating the mobility of “ABLE Battery,” the “I STRIKE” Battalion wanted to execute a full-dress rehearsal of our wartime plan, validating every moving piece of the operation. This would include moving over 170 U.S. Army, Air Force Security Forces, and KADF personnel, over 550 miles, in over 65 tactical and non-tactical vehicles.
Additionally, it would involve rehearsal of our ability to conduct reception, staging, and onward integration of the prepare to deploy order unit. Finally, it would validate the battalion’s ability to execute the mission under a sustained operational environment.
In other words, the operation would validate our ability to conduct force protection, sustainment operations, maintenance operations, joint kill chain integration, and communications in a steady state environment for 20 days with our KADF counterparts in an observation role.
Although the operation was an overwhelming success in nearly every facet, there is still significant room for development and improvement. First, a constraint prohibited a more robust participation by the PTDO Unit.
However, key leaders from the PTDO were able to deploy to Kuwait, participate in the battalion’s rehearsal of concept drill and conduct a full pre-deployment site survey and leaders’ reconnaissance of their global response force mission set. Additionally, and equally, if not more, importantly, the inclusion of KADF leadership in the battalion’s ROC drill would have advanced information sharing and partnership significantly. There is no good reason this should not become the norm.
The “Together We Fight — Together We Win” theater security cooperation line of effort developed by the “I STRIKE” Battalion required a lot of hard work and effort. It could not have been executed without the great strides and achievements of previous units and leaders that preceded the battalion.
It also could not have been carried off with such success without the support and encouragement of the battalion’s higher headquarters at both brigade and ARCENT. Most importantly, the entire effort could not have been executed to such a high degree of professionalism without the full dedication and commitment from our Kuwaiti counterparts and partners, the battalion’s Planning and Operations Cells, Standardization Team, Fire Direction Center Team, subordinate unit leadership, and all the Soldiers and Airmen that brought it all together.
We have been fighting alongside our Kuwaiti partners for 25 years and counting. In fact, 25 years ago, the first air defense artillery battery deployed to Kuwait in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Compare and contrast this to our commitment to Korea, an ally that we have fought, trained, and served alongside in the Korean Peninsula for the past 66 years.
The U.S. Army 2nd Infantry Division’s motto for its relationship with the Army of the Republic of Korea is “Katchi Kapshida” — We Go Together. Units in Korea, as a matter of routine, train alongside our Korean counterparts, rehearse our mission together, and demonstrate a clear commitment to and collaboration with one another in the face of a significant threat. This can only be achieved by building lasting trust between ourselves and our allies.
The approach must be the same in Kuwait and with our other GCC Partners — establish trust and commit to ever-improving collaboration. U.S. Patriot units, leadership and commanders must heed the guidance of ARCENT senior leadership, building a coalition warfighting readiness campaign plan that is a living document, independent of the rotational units that come and go.
We cannot continue to rotate U.S. Patriot units through Kuwait on routine deployments, without an overarching and evolving plan to build, maintain and improve our relationships with KADF.
The “I STRIKE” Battalion was able to make clear strides and advancements in the relationship with KADF. The battalion’s TSC plan was more than just “tea, sports, and conversation.” However, there is much room for continued improvement.
Units must continue their air battle exercises as a foundation, but as a force and as a branch, we must cement and codify our coalition warfighting readiness gains through continuity in operations and efforts over the long term. Additionally, at the highest echelons, constraints and hurdles related to foreign disclosure and information assurance must be routinely revisited and re-evaluated for the benefit of the IAMD mission, joint/combined training and exercises and, most importantly, for the strengthening of our critical partnerships across the GCC.
“Together We Fight — Together We Win” is one small effort. However, it may serve as a launching point and model for our continued integrated air and missile defense theater security cooperation efforts with our Kuwait Air Defense Force partners and all our GCC Partners in the region.
Lt. Col. Todd Schmidt is a former battalion commander of 4th Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery, stationed at Fort Sill, Okla. He is a graduate of the School of Advanced Military Studies (MMAS, 2012), Georgetown University (MPA, 2006), and a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member Alumni. He is currently attending University of Kansas, pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science through the Army Chief of Staff’s Army Strategic Policy and Planning Program.
Photo credit: Planners from the U.S. military and Japan Self-Defense Forces engage in missile defense planning during the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Wargame V on Feb. 13, 2014, in the 613th Air Operations Center at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii. The exercise centered around building relationships between the joint U.S. team and Japan’s military forces to overcome regional security challenges. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Nathan Allen)