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Preparing For War - Part 2

Preparing For War Part 2

With so many of America's enemies improving their military capabilities, the army is looking at new strategies for future battlefields.

During its recent trip to the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team was at the heart of major experiment that could change the way wars are fought.

Tanks have long been the primary vehicle used in the first wave of combat.

The problem is tanks are slow.

However, smaller vehicles like Humvees don't offer the same protection.

The Stryker was developed to safely transport a full squadron of troops and maneuver quickly across cities or open areas.

"So it allows us to get out and fight and swarm like light infantry do, but mount back up and dash across open terrain and get to the next piece of terrain," explains Command Sergeant Major Chad Brown of the 1st SBCT.

For more than a decade, the Army hasn't had to worry as much about advancing over large areas.

The fighting has taken place in more urban environments.

However, with newer more capable adversaries emerging, the commanders of U.S. Army Forces Command, General Robert Abrams, is re-thinking the forward progress concept.

"We're constantly questioning ourselves.  Do we have the right capabilities?  Do we have the right organizations to compete and be decisive on any future battlefield?" explains Abrams.

The 1st SBCT at Fort Carson is on the front line of the army's latest experiment.

"We're putting this brigade through a rotational design that we've never done here before," says Abrams.

During the brigade's recent trip to Fort Irwin, California, the soldiers took on the role of "Reconnaissance and Security".

Their mission was to scout out and secure new areas from the opposing force.

1st SBCT Commander Colonel Curtis D. Taylor says images from satellites and drones can only paint a limited picture.

"If you're going to attack an enemy who has a lot of capability, and I'm talking about tanks and aviation and all that, to really understand him, you've got to get out on the ground and meet him.  You can't just simply observe him from a distance," he says.

For example, a typical platoon with the 1st SBCT would be asked to locate, climb, and secure a steep hill, carrying heavy backpacks, water, weapons, and other optical devices to survey the area for the enemy.

Platoon leader Lt. Thomas White agrees with Taylor.

"You can't beat eyes on the ground.  So we can put up UAVs, UH-64s, we can get those eyes in the sky, and template where the enemy's going to be, but until you're actually standing on the ground, and being in the position we're in, and we can see for miles and miles, then you're actually going to get that human perspective," he explains.
Unfortunately, it's a difficult shift for the infantry, because while keeping watch on a mountain and occasionally firing at enemy helicopters might be valuable, it's not the same as raiding a town and fighting an enemy up close.

"Hitting a house is very easy to determine why you're doing it, what you're doing," says Lt. White, "but this more complex mission set is a little bit harder to push down to that lowest level."

Some of the higher-ups tell KRDO they are also not convinced the Strykers are best suited for Reconnaisance and Security, and that's exactly the point of this training, to find out what works and what doesn't work.

"In four short days, we've already learned a lot," said General Abrams, who visits the NTC once a month to observe the operations.

Over the next few months, the commanders will review the experiment to decide whether it will become the new standard.


Despite a continuous rotation of groups at the NTC, the military's top commanders say overall combat readiness is dangerously low.  Watch Part 3 of our special report Wednesday at 5:00 and 10:00 to learn more about how the problem evolved and what's needed to get troops properly prepared for combat once again.

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