Exercise Preps 82nd Airborne Division Staff for Afghanistan Deployment

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2006 - A week-long exercise that wraps up today at several U.S. bases is preparing 82nd Airborne Division troops and their Afghan, International Security Assistance Force, interagency and non-governmental organization partners for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

The Unified Endeavor mission rehearsal exercise brings together about 1,300 servicemembers who will deploy in January as Combined Joint Task Force 76. The task force, which also will include other supporting Army and Air Force elements, will serve in Regional Command East under the NATO-led ISAF.

In preparation for that mission, Unified Endeavor presented realistic training scenarios and real-time collaboration with Afghan nationals, more than 65 ISAF officers and a host of interagency representatives, Paul Mayberry, deputy undersecretary of defense for readiness, told Pentagon reporters today.

These players, operating at Fort Bragg, N.C.; Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.; Hurlburt Field, Fla.; and U.S. Joint Forces Command's Joint Warfighting Center in Suffolk, Va., are conducting a "robust joint training exercise that really reflects the real-world requirements for Operation Enduring Freedom and the asymmetric conditions that theater provides," Mayberry said.

Mayberry said the exercise duplicates many of the stresses and rigors the troops will confront during their deployment. Scenarios are updated regularly to incorporate the latest lessons learned in Afghanistan as well as Iraq, he said.

The exercise is also helping prepare deploying forces to understand the complexities of the mission and the importance of all elements of national power working together to succeed, Army Brig. Gen. Joe Votel, deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, told reporters by videoconference from Fort Bragg.

United Endeavor is offering staff and command-level officers increased situational awareness of the operating environment in Afghanistan. With that awareness came a better understanding of "the various different ways that we have to influence it--not only through our military elements, but also through the information domain, the economic domain and the diplomatic domain to accomplish the overall mission," Votel said.

"Unified Endeavor has ... provided us an opportunity to address a variety of different activities on the battlefield," he said, "and to learn how we bring all those together to create the effect that we are desiring."

Army Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya, commander of the Joint Warfighting Center, said via teleconference the exercise is helping CJTF staff members understand "how to get at problems through non-kinetic means."

Kamiya, who served as tactical commander of CJTF 76 until February 2006, said commanders need to recognize when a non-military response will be the most effective.

"Because you have the military capability to strike (at a problem), it doesn't mean that that is the tool that you must default to," Kamiya said. "You get at these problems via engagement of Afghan governors, engagement with tribal elders, working with the U.S. embassy, working with ISAF headquarters, to apply some of the tools available in the diplomatic, information and economic elements of national power."

"As military men and women, we're obviously comfortable with dealing with kinetic aspects of warfighting," Votel added. "But in the environment we are joining in Afghanistan, that is really only one dimension of it."

Equally important, he said, is dealing with the Taliban's aggressive press strategy, encouraging reconstruction and economic development that will lead to a more stable environment, and helping the Afghan government develop so it instills confidence in its citizens.

Preparing for this mission involves a lot more than figuring out where to place maneuver forces, Votel said. "We have to look at all the other aspects," he said. "We have to look at how we engage the people, how we support them, how we encourage economic development, how we ensure that we portray our strategy of putting the Afghan forces first and being in support of them and not just accomplishing missions from a U.S. standpoint.

"It becomes very complex," he said, "and I think that's one of the greatest things that we've taken away from this exercise."

Votel praised Joint Forces Command for presenting an array of real-world challenges in a relevant, realistic environment he said "forced us to work through all those problems and address the many facets that are involved in each of them."

Following the training, he declared his troops "very well-trained, resourced and ready to assume the responsibilities of commanding JTF 76 and the Regional Command East portion of ISAF."

Mayberry pointed to the realistic training offered by Unified Endeavor as an example of advances made through the Defense Department's training transformation effort during the past 18 months.

"We have significantly increased the fidelity of our integrated, joint training," he said. "We are succeeding in making a difference in preparing our forces for integrated operations on the increasingly complex battlefield."

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