Operation Warrior Forge 



Lt. Gen. Ted Stroup, USA, Ret.
Vice President, Association of the U.S. Army

As flexible as the United States Army has proven itself to be, there are always new reasons to exercise flexibility, especially when the pace of change seems to quicken.

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps has been adapting to change since its inception in 1916.

This year, the 8th ROTC Brigade at Fort Lewis, Wash., assumed the responsibility for the final stages of the planning and execution of the Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC), also known as Operation Warrior Forge, due to the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s transformation, which eliminated a layer of its command.

Both ROTC Eastern and Western Region headquarters were inactivated in the transformation, and Cadet Command reduced the number of ROTC brigades from 14 to eight, giving LDAC planning and execution responsibilities to the 8th Brigade.

The brigade also has the responsibility for 30 host ROTC programs and 165 Junior ROTC programs throughout nine western states.

As an increase in Army end strength drives the Army cadet population higher, Cadet Command set a record this year with 5,554 cadets going through Operation Warrior Forge.

The cadet population growth had begun pushing the Warrior Forge training program into the spring and fall semesters, impacting the cadets’ academic year. In order to rectify the scheduling challenge, the training timeline needed to be compressed. 

 Operation Warrior Forge 2009
Army ROTC cadets participate in squad maneuver training at the Leader Development and Assessment Course, also known as Operation Warrior Forge. Despite the impact of reduced training resources, the foundation of LDAC remains intact, and the physical rigor remains high as cadet field time has increased from 11 to 14 days.

The 8th Brigade at Fort Lewis, a new Cadet Command element, conducted Warrior Forge with the extensive planning needed to adjust to the course’s new summer footprint.

The changes to the calendar shortens the time-on-station for training cadre and support staff – saving the Army money and saving those affected a number of days in the process.

However, the mission to train cadets, develop leadership and evaluate officer potential has not changed. In fact, the rigor of certain leadership assessment phases has been increased.

To meet the requirements of the officer accessions’ mission, LDAC planners this year implemented a strategy now known as the "double-stack."

In the past, regiments of 350 to 400 cadets would arrive and begin training at Fort Lewis about four days apart. Adding regiments to increase LDAC’s training and assessment capacity lengthened the summer training cycle.

"We were starting up before some schools were out for the summer," Col. Paul Wood, commander of 8th Brigade and Warrior Forge, said, "and were in the final days of the later regiments’ schedules as some schools were starting their fall semesters. This impacted the ROTC programs, both cadre and cadets, in an undesirable way."

With the double-stack concept, two regiments of 500 cadets each start and graduate simultaneously. This shortens LDAC’s duration from 79 days down to 49 days, from June 13 to July 31.

The four-day separation of schedules is retained. Between each four-day cycle, the schedule becomes like a Rubik’s cube of overlapping training. This requires more rigorous logistical support and a more tightly packed training schedule, but it has proven to be supportable.

The chief benefit is the time saved, which allows the program to meet the increased training requirement within the confines of the summer period without impacting the academic year end and start dates.

Training tasks tweaked
This year’s Warrior Forge operation felt the impact of reduced training resources and, as a result, the evaluation of some individual training tasks have been relegated to campus cadre, Basic Officer Leadership Course II, and first unit of assignment.

The foundation of LDAC remains intact, and that is the leadership assessment and cadet leadership development. The physical rigor remains high and cadet field time has increased from 11 to 14 days.

As the Army changes training resources, Cadet Command is focusing on crucial training tasks and seeking efficiencies throughout its entire lieutenant training process. This ensures tasks are covered that evaluate the leadership potential of the Army’s future officers.

Cadets are spending less time in buildings and more time in assembly areas and tactical training bases in the field. More nights in a field environment is valuable experience and provides opportunities for assessments that can’t be found in a garrison environment.

In addition to the 5,554 ROTC Cadets who attended Warrior Forge this summer, LDAC trained 32 U.S. Military Academy cadets, 31 cadets from the United Kingdom and 190 soldiers attending Officer Candidate School.

More than 3,000 people supported Warrior Forge, including 600 in direct training roles and 2,400 in supporting roles such as medical, logistics, safety, administration and the like.

This year, 223 Army ROTC cadets were commissioned at LDAC graduation ceremonies. In Fiscal Year 2009, Cadet Command will commission about 4,600 second lieutenants in FY 2009 with a projected 5,100 in Fiscal Year 2010.

 Cadet drops from a rope bridge
An Army ROTC cadet at the Leader Development and Assessment Course drops from a rope bridge about 30 feet above Lake Sequalitchew on Fort Lewis, Wash., where cadets take part in a water-based confidence course that helps eliminate their fears of heights and water.

LDAC overview
The Warrior Forge training program is sequential and progressive, moving from individual to collective training, building from simple to complex tasks.

This building-block approach permits integration of previously-learned skills into follow-on training, reinforcing learning and promoting retention. This logical, common-sense training sequence is maintained for each training cycle through use of the tiered training structure.

LDAC is comprised of the following training:

Confidence Training includes rappelling, the slide-for-life, log-walk/rope-drop and confidence/obstacle courses.

Confidence Training is designed to challenge the cadets’ physical courage, build confidence in personal abilities and assist in overcoming fear.

At the rappelling site, each cadet executes one 17-foot rappel and several 37-foot rappels. Cadets demonstrate confidence in their ability to overcome fear of heights by executing the confidence/obstacle course, log-walk/rope drop and slide for life.

Field Leader’s Reaction Course. FLRC is a series of difficult obstacles that can only be negotiated through thoughtful skill and teamwork. It is designed to develop and evaluate leadership and to build teamwork early in the training and assessment cycle.

Cadet leadership potential is assessed by committee evaluators. Cadets are provided the opportunity to get early feedback on their leadership strengths, weaknesses, styles and techniques.

Land Navigation must be mastered early in the training cycle for the cadets to be fully successful in the tactical training that follows. The Land Navigation evaluation consists of three events totaling 100 points. The written examination is worth 20 percent.

The day Land Navigation test is worth 50 percent. Night Land Navigation is worth 30 percent. Each cadet must earn 70 percent on each test to pass this event. A passing score is an assessment-completion criterion.

Prior to Land Navigation cadets will learn field craft while living and sleeping in the woods. They will set up field expedient shelters using ponchos and whatever else is available. They’ll learn how to maintain noise, light and litter discipline.

U.S. Weapons familiarizes cadets with the operation and employment of infantry squad weapons. The cadets train in the fundamentals of the operation and engaging of targets and emplacement of crew-served weapons such as the M-249, M-203, and M-136.

Hand Grenade Assault Course. Basic understanding and use of hand grenades is an important facet of weapons and tactical training. Cadets learn to identify major types of grenades and learn the grenades’ characteristics and uses.

Cadets will familiarize themselves with IEDs and how to defeat them.

Cultural Awareness teaches cadets a basic understanding of cultural matters and how cultural awareness can facilitate mission success. Cadets learn how to conduct bi-lateral discussions with local officials, how to conduct a knock-and-search mission and how to defuse volatile situations using an interpreter.

This year, a scenario was added that reinforced ethical decision making in the contemporary operating environment.

First Aid. Cadets develop confidence in their ability to react properly to battlefield wounds and the threats of chemical weapons attacks. Through hands-on training and evaluation, cadets learn critical first aid skills and fundamental tasks of donning and maintaining a chemical protective mask.

Tactics. This year Squad Situational Training and Patrolling Situational Training Exercises have been combined under the tactics committee.

Squad Situational Training Exercises. Squad STX is a four-day, two-phase event. The first day, the squad training phase, is designed to train squad battle drills and collective tasks. The last three days, the Squad STX lane phase, are designed to evaluate leadership using tactical scenarios. Each cadet receives two formal evaluations of her/his performance as a squad leader.

Squad operations build on and reinforce all previous instruction. Cadets use knowledge of land navigation, terrain analysis, weapons systems and all individual training previously presented.

Tactical Training Base. Cadets operate out of a Forward Operating Base-like facility during squad and patrolling STX. They conduct missions during the day and return to the TTB and assume security responsibilities where they learn to inspect vehicles, conduct personnel searches, man guard towers and react to belligerent crowds who represent locals in the threat scenario and other common FOB-oriented threats.

Cadets also conduct mission planning for patrols and spend two nights operating out of a patrol base before culminating their field training with a 10-kilometer road march.

Patrolling Situational Training Exercises. The patrolling phase of tactics training consists of two days during which cadets are evaluated while conducting six section-level combat patrols. Developmental feedback is provided to all levels of leadership.

Patrolling STX builds on and reinforces all previous instruction received during the course, and incorporates the basics of air assault operations by conducting an actual air insertion.

(Editor’s note: Lt. Gen. Stroup visited Operation Warrior Forge in July. Jeremy O’Bryan, public affairs officer, U.S. Army Cadet Command, Fort Lewis, assisted in the preparation of this article.)