Progressive Targeting Train-up for Corps and Division Warfighters

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Progressive Targeting Train-up for Corps and Division Warfighters

Major Luke Zeck, United States Army



This paper serves to provide recommended training “gates” for Division and Corps Training Audiences (TAs) to execute prior to and during a Warfighting Exercise (WFX).


  The Warfighter Exercise (WFX) is characteristically the primary training event in the training progressions for Division and Corps staffs.  Warfighters, as they are commonly called, train and assess Army Division and Corps staffs on their ability to conduct Large-Scale Combat Operations (LSCO) in an intensive tactical environment. Units that develop and conduct a progressive targeting process train-up during their command post exercises are best prepared to execute the Warfighter.  During a WFX, there are numerous training opportunities to execute the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP).  As described in ADP 5-0 The Operations Process, “commanders initiate planning upon receipt of, or in anticipation of, a mission.”  Commanders can execute MDMP on any multitude of planning efforts: ranging from deployments, training exercises, to new equipment fielding and training (NEF/NET).  Inputs/Outputs such as intelligence and maneuver planning drive this process during MDMP, and should be included as much as possible when conducting targeting.  Figure 1 displays how targeting is integrated into MDMP.


Figure 1: Integration of the Targeting Process into the MDMP (FM 3-60)

Factors that impact targeting include the Air Tasking Order (ATO) and Airspace Coordination Order (ACO) published from the Air Component Command (ACC), synchronizing lethal and non-lethal effects with higher and subordinate unit headquarters through targeting decision boards (TDB) and working groups (TWG), communicating with the Battlefield Coordination Detachment (BCD) to ensure Air Support Requests (ASRs) are prioritized, received, and resourced on the ATO, as well as synchronizing current operations (CUOPS), integrated with the Air Support Operations Center (ASOC) within the Joint Air Ground Integration Cell (JAGIC).  A critical document for the JAGIC is the Unit Airspace Plan (UAP), a digital product built in TAIS with inputs from the Fires Cell, Army Airspace Element, Air and Missile Defense, Tactical Airspace Control Party, as well as subordinate maneuver and functional brigades.  The UAP is submitted to The Air Component Command for approval and the geometries are added to the AOC, ensuring all airspace units understand how the unit intends to use their assigned airspace.  An effective UAP enables “targeteers” to conduct dynamic targeting while minimizing the risk of fratricide.  These and other targeting requirements reinforce the importance that Training Audiences should participate in the Warfighter fully trained on the targeting processes and planning procedures.  A failure to meet a suspense in the ATO reduces the organization’s ability to synchronize joint enablers into operations.  A unit increases the likelihood their air support requests are approved if the target submissions are in line with the Joint Force Commander’s targeting guidance.  The first day of the Warfighter exercise is not the time to discover your targeting procedures do not support the overall concept of the operation.

Opportunities to train on targeting exist in Command Post Exercises (CPX) leading up to the Warfighter.  CPXs are organized in a series of three progressive exercises that are used in the train-up prior to the Warfighter.  While FORSCOM directs training audiences to conduct a series of three command post exercises in the WFX train-up, they do not specify the requirements and objectives.  Units are afforded considerable flexibility to tailor the training to their schedules, OPTEMPO, and commander guidance.  Units that emphasize targeting early in their CPX progression are best trained for the Warfighter Exercise.  Staffs that conduct TWGs and TDBs, submit detailed and complete ASRs, and produce “fighting” products relative to targeting (HPTL, TSS, AGM, and TSM) are better prepared for the execution of the WFX.  Units should identify goals or “gates” to achieve within the targeting process during the command post exercises to ensure they are prepared prior to the start of the Warfighter in order to ensure a shared understanding across the command and staff with respect to integration of targeting into planning.  The following chart is a recommend training progression units can execute to ensure a high level of preparedness for the Warfighter.  This progression uses the respective CPXs as training to ensure staffs are postured to conduct targeting in a time-constrained environment.  The table in Figure 1 provides a list of training objectives for each respective CPX units can establish for their train-up for the Warfighter Exercise.

Figure 2: Progressive Targeting Cell Training (MCT Academics)

Command Post Exercise I

CPX I is executed similar to a Staff Exercise (STAFFEX), with training consisting of Battle Drills, Command Post operations, and scalable Battle Rhythm events.  This training is typically conducted in the Division or Corps headquarters or the installation Mission Command Training (MCT) center.  CPX I is an excellent opportunity for staffs to train on the processes and procedures inherent to Army and Joint targeting, allowing them to execute incremental steps to prepare for future training.  In addition to the traditional steps of establishing communications within Army Battle Command Systems (BCS), there are many areas to train.  During CPX I, staffs develop the High Payoff Target List (HPTL), the Attack Guidance Matrix (AGM), the Target Selection Standards (TSS), and the Target Synchronization Matrix (TSM).  The staff should come together early in the train-up to ensure there is common understanding across all Warfighting Functions regarding the importance of these documents and their impact across the organization.  A goal should be to ensure the template or standard shell product is standardized across the staff and all personnel understand the significance of the documents and how each WfF is integrated to the development of each.  Air Support Request (ASR) development and standards should be codified at the completion of CPX I.  AFATDS operators and the NCOs/WOs that supervise them can train on building the request in AFATDS via DD Form 1972 or the Joint Targeting Tool (JTT), while senior targeting officers can verify these requests have the necessary details and completeness. 

The first command post exercise is an opportunity to establish the format of the unit’s target working group (TWG) and decision board (TDB).  Targeting officers can coach the staff on the inputs required to participate in meetings to build and maintain an efficient and effective process.  CPX I is an opportunity to define the importance of incorporating assessments into targeting process.  Identifying the key components of the Assessment Working Group early in the CPX allows Warfighting Functions to ensure they are prepared as the intensity of the training increases.  Another process to define early in the train-up is the information flow between Division Fire Support Element (FSE) and the Division Artillery (DIVARTY) planners.  These two components need to ensure there is shared understanding of the Fire Support Coordinator’s (FSCOORD) guidance for employing surface fires.  Warfighter trends have shown that a daily dialogue between the two components is essential for refining the TLWS, which drive ammunition expenditure rates and positioning guidance. 

Finally, CPX I is an opportunity for the staff to train on the process of building the Unit Airspace Plan (UAP), a critical component when integrating all airspace users into the plan.  Establishing these processes earlier in the WFX train-up provides the unit ample time to synchronize training across warfighting functions as well as identify and correct areas of concern.


Command Post Exercise II

Current CPX IIs trends show units continue to focus on Battle Drills, Command Post operations, and the establishment of the unit’s Battle Rhythm.  Units maintain the discretion to conduct the CPX II under either canvas or at the MCT.  CPX II is when staffs establish their staff processes and procedures to enable success at the WFX.  CPX II is a great opportunity for staffs to continue the training progression on targeting.  Applying training achieved from the “gates” met during CPX I, units can focus on nesting their processes with the Joint Air Tasking Cycle during CPX II.  Actions include ensuring the unit meets suspense for requests and refinements for joint force capabilities. 

CPX II is an opportunity to begin incorporating tactical and operational assessments and the information that drives the Army Targeting Methodology.  Staff can train on integrating targeting towards development of the scheme of maneuver and identifying and developing a deliberate transition from Future Operations (FUOPS) to Current Operations (CUOPS).  These efforts include continued focus on ASRs, building the UAP, and establishing the TWG and TDB processes that were executed during CPX I.  Units should also execute CPX II to ensure Army digital systems can appropriately communicate via a Communication Exercise (COMMEX), as this communication is critical in the execution of both deliberate and dynamic targets.  These systems include AFATDS, TAIS, AMDWS, JADOCS, and TBMCS in addition to establishing chatroom SOPs.  CPX II is an excellent opportunity for the Field Artillery Intelligence Officer (FAIO) to work within the Intelligence WfF if the communications platforms are adequately configured.  This ensures that detected targets are passed from the intelligence collection asset through DCGS-A in the form of TiDADS messages and are executable in AFATDS and JADOCS.


Command Post Exercise III

CPX III is the final training opportunity for a unit prior to conducting movement to the actual Warfighter.  CPX III should be conducted “under canvas” in a tactical setting.  Units who have the greatest success during WFXs will plan CPX III just prior to the WFX to allow for all tactical shelters to be established, and allow the command and staff to conduct the full MDMP in a tactical environment and using their tactical systems.  Units execute operations against a near-peer threat in WARSIM, execute current operations with a JAGIC through the employment of lethal and non-lethal Fires, codify the unit’s Battle Rhythm, and train on command post displacement.  CPX III is the final training opportunity for the staff to ensure all processes and procedures are prepared to execute at the Warfighter.  All command and control systems should be operational and integrated, staffs should conduct targeting working groups and boards, and all targeting “fighting” documents should be produced and used in the Fires Current Operations Cell.  Units should strive to conduct these key tasks in the same manner of the actual Warfighter.



Units that execute their Command Post Exercise (CPX) progression to achieve the targeting key tasks identified in this paper are best prepared to conduct targeting under the challenges presented during a Warfighter Exercise.  This progression ensures that every WfF is conducting targeting-related functions in the Warfighter that were previously conducted during the train-up.  Units that follow this model, or some variation, will be the most prepared when conducting targeting integrated with the joint force against the MCTP World Class Opposing Force (WCOPFOR).  Unprepared and untrained units are challenged with unsupported ASRs, and target nominations that do not make the Joint Integrated Prioritized Targeting List (JIPTL), in addition to other aspects of planning and executing operations that place the unit at a disadvantage.  Investing the time on targeting at CPXs pay dividends for units at the Warfighter exercise.  The systems, processes, and procedures necessary to make targeting successful are developed through repetition.  Units that are able to synchronize targeting efforts across warfighting functions and with subordinate and higher headquarters are better prepared to execute at STARTEX.  Effective targeting throughout the entire Warfighter ensures that the unit is synchronized with the joint force, giving the unit the best opportunity to succeed at this challenging training exercise.

*Background Image : Oklahoma National Guard 45th Field Artillery Brigade prepares forces in warfighter exercise; Taken by SSG Kasey Phipps