The Army’s Training Problem

The Missing Correlation between Home Station Training and Combat Readiness


Col. Shawn P. Creamer, U.S. Army

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Photo by Spc. Angel Ruszkiewicz, U.S. Army

The resumption of great-power competition and the focus by the U.S. Armed Forces on Total Force, multi-domain operations (MDO) accentuate the importance of developing and sustaining trained and ready ground forces before crisis and conflict. As the U.S. Armed Forces’ primary instrument for delivering landpower, the Army plays a unique, irreplaceable role in the first days of any conflict, large or small. Total Army forces require strategic posturing and flexibility to support planned and unplanned operations as well as a pre-D-Day level of combat readiness to immediately transition to warfighting and win against a peer adversary who likely initiated hostilities.

The United States no longer enjoys primacy across the warfighting functions (WfF) on the contemporary multi-domain battlefield. And in large-scale combat operations (LSCO), U.S. forces likely will be locally overmatched quantitatively. These circumstances point to a future Army as “an unlikely instrument” as a member of the joint team designated to protect America’s national interests.1

The United States faced a similar conundrum in the 1970s, which served as the major driver for the development of AirLand Battle doctrine and the accompanying equipping and training revolutions that realized it. The tandem development of doctrine, equipment, and training helped the United States gain a definitive advantage over its main threat, Soviet conventional forces. Similarly, the Armed Forces must develop the training and equipment to support the MDO concept.

There are flaws in the Army’s contemporary training methodology, and the Army is not producing formations that are trained and ready for LSCO against a peer adversary. Finding solutions to this problem is difficult, particularly with so many interests across the Army and the joint enterprise involved. However, while the solutions offered here are likely more aggressive than the institution is ready to accept at face value today, they are offered to initiate a dialogue on the hard decisions that must be made to get the Army moving toward improving combat readiness in its tactical formations. If the Army can come to accept that it really does have a problem, it can rise above parochial interests and become sufficiently motivated to find solutions as it did in the 1970s.

The Problem: Army Units Are Not as Combat Ready as We Think

Not that long ago, Army forces developed the core of their combat readiness at home station and did not rely on biennial combat training center (CTC) rotations to hone their ability to fight at echelon.2 Army forces developed unit and leader proficiency as part of the Army Training and Evaluation Program (ARTEP), primarily through multiday, multiechelon field training exercises at home station. Live-fire maneuver exercises were prioritized but were secondary to developing a unit’s ability to operate as a combined arms team. Army units trained to a high enough level that they could rapidly integrate replacements and execute complex tactical tasks, sustaining a fight for days and weeks. They could do this because enough of each unit had developed a baseline of experience that it could not just perform but had an excellent chance of winning against a peer adversary.

Photo courtesy of The Paraglide

However, due to operational demands placed on the force well into the second decade of the 2000s, the Army altered how it trained and developed combat readiness at home station. Three fundamental shifts occurred in how Army units were trained for most of the last two decades: training time was curtailed to protect weekends, individual and small-unit proficiency displaced multiechelon field training, and live-fire training became the preferred metric for determining readiness. The result was that the Army lost more than a decade of experience in decisive action combat readiness, and even though the focus is back on decisive action proficiency, our tactical forces display troubling signs of unfamiliarity in operating as a member of a combined arms or multi-domain team. Time is likely not going to solve the Army’s decisive action combat readiness gap on an acceptable schedule. Moreover, there are four interconnected, training-related factors within the Army enterprise that, when combined, act as barriers to developing appropriate levels of decisive action combat readiness within tactical formations:

  • a misplaced focus on lower echelon training,
  • a lack of leader repetitions,
  • a failure to stress warfighting functions at echelon, and
  • an erosion of higher headquarter capabilities to support training.

Factor 1: Misplaced focus on lower echelon training. Army doctrine states, “Training is the most important thing the Army does to prepare for operations. Training is the cornerstone of readiness. Readiness determines our Nation’s ability to fight and win in a complex global environment.”3 Yet, despite the widespread understanding of the correlation of training to fighting and winning, the Army has set the bar for training and readiness too low. The Army has overly focused training metrics on individual benchmarks for deployability and the ever-moving gates for training proficiency at the squad level and below.4

Too low of a training focus negatively affects the Army’s ability to deliver trained and ready forces to a joint force commander. Army forces must possess the proficiency necessary to sequence the WfFs within the joint force across time and space, and be capable of mutually sustaining operations at echelon and for its joint partners over the course of an extended battle or campaign.5 While no one disputes that Army units must adequately train the building blocks, too disproportionate a focus on the low end is unsound because squad-level proficiency does not equate to higher-level collective training proficiency across the WfFs. Perhaps it is better said using a sports metaphor: the high stakes game of LSCO against a peer adversary is a team sport, and team sports require extensive live scrimmaging at speed for a team to chalk up a win.

In MDO, corps and divisions have a significantly more active warfighting role, closely resembling the functions they played under AirLand Battle. Yet, despite this, the brigade combat team (BCT) remains the Army’s primary fighting formation, and to win against a peer adversary, the BCT must repeatedly train at echelon. Unfortunately, BCTs do not get the repetitions to be combat ready on a D-Day level. Therefore, presupposing the assertion that LSCO against a peer adversary requires combat readiness at the BCT level vice the current squad-focused paradigm, leaders, and not the common soldier, must deliver victory.

Factor 2: Leaders lack repetitions. Leaders and leader experience matter. Yet, the Army is not adequately developing its officers and noncommissioned officers to fight within the BCT. The Army, and its leaders themselves, are instead over-relying on the combat experience gained through the last twenty years of fighting small wars. These base-camp-centric small wars serve as the foundational experience for many of our leaders today. While small war experience is invaluable, it is a mistake to believe that this narrow experience will automatically translate into LSCO success against a peer adversary with less combat experience.

Leader experience is forged through study and practice, and a lack of study can be as detrimental to leader development as a lack of practice. Both study and practice are required in order for a leader to become a master in the profession of arms. The Army’s professional military education program might be the best in the world, but without the requisite practice to reinforce what is learned in the schoolhouse, leaders will struggle in successive key and developmental opportunities if only afforded one or two opportunities to scrimmage live as they move up through the ranks. Repetitive practice built upon the foundation of study delivers mastery.

For almost twenty years, we have given our tactical leaders neither the opportunities nor the repetitions to operate their formations. The lack of decisive action foundational experiences, previously developed as a key component of the home station Army Training and Evaluation Program, has left our current crop of leaders inexperienced in both the science and art of decisive action warfare. Without adequate field time operating at echelon, Army tactical leaders struggle across the broad swath of decisive action tactical tasks, particularly over distance and at night. They perform poorly, muddling and bullying their way through when tested, often because the next level leader is just as inexperienced as those they lead. The institutional knowledge base inside our tactical forces has atrophied significantly, leaving too few leaders to organize and lead the less experienced masses through basic, foundational decisive action tasks.

Photo by Pfc. Kahlil Dash, U.S. Army

The core of our tactical leadership cadre, those the BCT relies on to pull the rest along, are too few in number, leaving our fighting formations unable to synchronize or sequence the WfFs to concentrate at the decisive point of a fight. This leader inexperience is manifested in our tactical units that are unable to support one continuous fight across repetitive ninety-six-hour time horizons. Highly complex tactical tasks such as wet-gap crossings and the deliberate defense are largely absent from training, and even when they occur, they are not executed with enough rigor.

In addition, our leaders are not adequately tested or stressed, for the most demanding collective training executed today largely consists of shorter duration and uncontested lane training. One of the major drivers justifying this shift to shorter duration lane training was our attempt to protect weekends. However, this disproportionate focus on lane training, particularly live-fire exercises, does not expose or prepare our tactical leaders for the hardships of LSCO. Lane training enables our leaders to “turn on” for short bursts but does not expose their fundamental weaknesses or their soldiers’ true fitness and stamina to withstand LSCO. Multiday, multiechelon field training exercises as part of a BCT expose real faults in doctrine, in operating procedures, and in leaders, for the field exposes everything.

Factor 3: Failure to stress warfighting functions at echelon. Army formations have fundamentally evolved over the past twenty years from analog-based, legacy units that leveraged task-organized enablers to become digitally enhanced, modular formations with organically embedded enablers. When the Army instituted this transformational change, it failed to adequately reframe its training methodology to reflect the new structure. In short, the Army digitized the force with the integrated tactical network without adequately adapting the way it trains units collectively to develop proficiency. Army BCTs have lacked adequate stimuli for their mission command information systems (MCIS) to exercise the synchronization and sequencing of WfFs and replicate the stresses of a decisive action training environment (DATE). This lack of stimuli is absent in two forms, procedural and technical.

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While ready access to enablers at home station is a major training barrier, the markedly smaller size of division and corps headquarters staffs constrains their active involvement in training brigade combat teams.

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Procedurally, Army tactical forces lack practice operating at echelon at home station. This lack of practice, particularly at the battalion and BCT levels, limits collective use of the MCIS to stress upper and lower tactical internet networks and forces units to fight for communications at distance and across terrain through their primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency communication plans. Moreover, this same lack of stimuli limits the opportunities of our tactical formations to exercise their battle rhythms and work through echeloning command nodes to support a decisive action fight. This lack of procedural proficiency across the force is consistently identified as a major problem area for units when they train at a CTC.

Technically, Army tactical forces lack the necessary live, virtual, constructive (LVC) overwrap to stimulate the WfFs through the MCIS to replicate a decisive action threat. In essence, when our tactical forces train, their MCISs largely communicate on a limited closed loop, absent of external stimuli to drive the WfFs. The nature of stimuli posited here includes enemy, host-nation, and civil considerations; adjacent unit dispositions; and higher headquarters demand signals. These technical stimuli all must be simultaneously filtered through multiple MCIS feeds, across multiple command and control nodes, then deciphered and analyzed to their key elements to enable commander decisions and deliver lethality at echelon. Without such stimuli, the BCT’s WfFs are not properly tested, leaving our command nodes undertrained to synchronize operations in LSCO against a peer adversary.

Enhancing training through procedural and technical stimuli is underappreciated by the Army as a necessity to train our BCTs for LSCO. Most Army BCTs do not receive adequate stimuli at home station to adequately replicate a DATE, receiving this only at one of the three tactical CTCs. Even when Army units are fortunate to undergo a CTC rotation, they usually have but one chance over ten force-on-force days every two years to get it right, with little opportunity to retrain on deficiencies.

Factor 4: Erosion of higher headquarters capabilities to support training. Regular Army divisions and corps have suffered an erosion of capabilities over the last twenty years, hindering the Army’s ability to deliver collective training at home station. The two most significant losses for these headquarters was the divestment of their organic enablers and significant manpower cuts. Combined, they left divisions and corps hollow, lacking the capacity and resources to adequately plan, prepare, resource and execute decisive action collective training for their subordinate battalions and BCTs.

Moreover, many enablers critical to a BCT’s combat readiness are no longer under the division commander’s control. Without ready access to the proper mix of enablers to replicate a DATE for their subordinate units, divisions have become ever more reliant on a reduced, overtaxed, and geographically distributed corps to execute home station battalion task force (TF) or BCT decisive action training.

In addition, as the Total Army lost force structure over the last decade, many key enablers critical to decisive action combat readiness now disproportionately reside within the Reserve Component (RC).6 Whereas the RC is very willing to train with its Regular Army teammates, there are timing, geographic proximity, and training readiness barriers that impair collaborative multicomponent training. Most significant, the RC is resourced for only thirty-nine training days annually, distributed across three- and four-day training periods in conjunction with weekends, and two weeks of annual training. Aggravating RC readiness are its posture—RC units are located where they can recruit and retain talent, with the soldiers and units in many cases distributed across several states.

Photo by Pfc. Kahlil Dash, U.S. Army

While ready access to enablers at home station is a major training barrier, the markedly smaller size of division and corps headquarters staffs constrains their active involvement in training BCTs. Focused day-to-day on administrative, operational matters, and their own combat readiness, there is little leftover organizational energy for a division or corps to be actively involved in training their subordinate units. Senior leaders are not adequately sensitized to the dilemma facing division- and corps-level staffs or even the true state of combat readiness by BCT formations because there have been no catastrophic failures to date. The absence of battlefield failure against insurgents or secondary military powers is not a barometer we should put much stock in to predict how prepared Army units are for battle against a peer adversary.

The previous paragraphs offer an ominous picture regarding the challenges the Army is facing in preparing its forces for LSCO. Failure to address the aforementioned training barriers will at some point likely manifest itself in tactical defeat on some future decisive action battlefield, resembling the Army’s July 1950 performance in Korea.7 However, capabilities and resources currently reside within the Army to pursue solutions for delivering better, more combat-ready forces from home station.

Modernizing Home Station Collective Training

The Army has devoted considerable organizational energy to the development and promulgation of its MDO concept. MDO lays the foundation for the Army and joint team to deliver victory for the United States against peer adversaries. But, the Army has not measurably devoted similar energies to evolving its training methodology to deliver combat-ready forces to overcome the complexities of MDO. The Army has relied too long on its three CTCs to train the BCT; however, the CTC program is not optimized to develop appropriate levels of combat readiness for our BCTs. Appropriate levels of combat readiness to execute MDO can only be developed at home station. Therefore, it is imperative the Army modernize its home station training program to improve the capability of our BCTs to execute MDO.

Photo by Pfc. Isaih Vega, U.S. Army

One such way to modernize and improve home station training for our BCTs while addressing the previously discussed four factors is to fully develop a collective training program of record similar to that provided to the United States Army Pacific (USARPAC).8 Called the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Capability (JPMRC), it could be replicated across the Army. The JPMRC is an exportable LVC collective training capability, scaled to support battalion TF or BCT force-on-force decisive action culminating training events (CTE) at their home stations or at other regionally proximate training sites.9 The JPMRC’s LVC capability was originally built to provide the Army a mobile CTC capability. USARPAC repurposed the capability to one that modernizes the ARTEP from its analog foundation to one that is digitally enhanced and connected.

Since 2015, the JPMRC has supported twelve LVC-enhanced BCT CTEs for I Corps’ six BCTs at training sites in Alaska, California, Hawaii, and Washington state. In addition to the aforementioned LVC-enhanced CTEs, the JPMRC supported one unenhanced BCT CTE in 2019.10 Moreover, as an example of JPMRC’s versatility to scale to the needs of I Corps units, the JPMRC supported a battalion TF CTE as the program stood up operations in 2014, a BCT-level command post exercise in 2017, and a brigade-level command post exercise in 2020. Furthermore, USARPAC has consistently employed niche capabilities from the JPMRC across the Indo-Pacific in support of Army units as they trained with partners and allies. To date, the JPMRC has supported multinational exercises in Australia (Hamel), Japan (Orient Shield), Malaysia (Keris Strike), and the Philippines (Balikatan).

Left Quote

If the Army becomes sufficiently motivated, it can solve both fiscal and manpower resourcing challenges to improve the combat readiness of our brigade combat teams at home station.

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The JPMRC supports I Corps and its forces utilizing an “augment and enhance” operating construct. The JPMRC augments the designated senior trainer’s staff, primarily at division headquarters, with planners experienced in the Joint Event Life Cycle process to assist in concept and scenario development, exercise planning, coordination, and preparing force-on-force decisive action collective training CTEs.11 The JPMRC continues supporting the senior trainer’s staff through execution, providing academies to train the opposing force, observer-controller/trainers, and tactical analysis facility personnel; an exercise control cell to control the exercise and meet the senior trainer’s training objectives; and the core cadre for an operations group (OPSGRP) with a commander to control the observer-controller/trainers and the opposing force, and to assist the senior trainer’s exercise director in training his or her forces.12

The JPMRC further enhances the DATE for these battalion TFs and BCTs beyond the aforementioned external OPSGRP and exercise control enablers by providing an LVC overwrap, stimulating the MCISs and WfFs at echelon through its instrumentation system and tactical analysis facility capabilities. While the above is uncannily similar construct-wise to capabilities delivered by the CTCs, the JPMRC is different in that it is a supporting arm, augmenting and enhancing a division headquarters with the senior trainer (division) responsible for and actively leading the training.13

The JPMRC is an existing proof of concept for delivering, from home station, better-trained, more combat-capable BCTs at marginal cost. While the quantity of force-on-force repetitions of I Corps BCTs and supporting units are on par with the rest of the conventional Army, I Corps’ JPMRC-enhanced training venues more realistically stress units in a DATE, at echelon, and across the WfFs than any of those used in the Army enterprise outside of a biennial CTC rotation.

The JPMRC was not purpose-built for USARPAC. Rather, the JPMRC leverages the Army’s already significant investment in the Exportable Training Capability Instrumentation System, an $85 million deployable instrumentation system originally fielded to the National Training Center but never used. Moreover, the JPMRC was attached and later assigned to USARPAC’s National Defense Authorization Act Title XI training support brigade to get the program off the ground in 2014; this is where the program resides today.14 USARPAC’s training support brigade sources the core of JPMRC’s OPSGRP cadre and provides command oversight over its activities.

In fiscal year (FY) 2015, a total of 180 military and Department of the Army civilian (DAC) requirements were documented to support an OPSGRP scaled for battalion- and squadron-sized CTEs.15 Authorizations to support requirements have been slow to follow, with ten military authorized in FY 2016, followed by twelve DACs in FY 2017. JPMRC has grown to ten military and forty DACs authorized in FY 2020. To compensate for JPMRC’s manpower shortfalls, Headquarters, Department of the Army, augmented the JPMRC with directed military overhires, while USARPAC has resourced additional manpower through troop diversion.16 In addition, the JPMRC is supported by ten full-time support contractors and augmented by up to an additional twenty support contractors during exercises.

The JPMRC has not yet achieved its programmatic end state, having achieved an initial operating capability in 2015 and with full operating capability (FOC) targeted for beyond FY 2024. Some programmatic fielding of FOC capabilities is still required, and the JPMRC’s initial skeleton manning requires moving away from the ad hoc manpower solutions that have sustained it to date to something more permanent, including a recalibration of its manpower requirements to better reflect the FOC end state. While the JPMRC still has three or more programmatic years to mature, enough data and lessons learned have been gathered to conclude that the JPMRC’s full potential to the wider Army is under-realized in terms of delivering pre-D-Day combat readiness.

Resourcing Modernized Home Station Collective Training

Should the Army decide to modernize home station training, one option to consider is to field a JPMRC-like, fully resourced LVC capability to each of the other three Army corps. In doing so, the Army can immeasurably improve the collective training proficiency and the combat readiness of its tactical forces. Army leaders will face constrained resourcing challenges and some difficult choices in how to harvest the resources to field this capability. To realize such a change as offered here, the Army must overcome the dogma of overly protecting popularized or long-standing but outmoded equities. However, if the Army becomes sufficiently motivated, it can solve both fiscal and manpower resourcing challenges to improve the combat readiness of our BCTs at home station. Of the two resourcing challenges, fiscal resourcing is likely the most easily overcome despite the leaner budgets the Army operates with today, with manpower likely the more emotional decision to overcome.17

The Army is aggressively pursuing transformational capabilities to equip the force to execute MDO through the activation of Futures Command. Futures Command and its cross-functional teams thus far appear to be disciplined and measured, avoiding a repeat of the Future Combat System debacle when the Army gambled $18 billion on its ability to simultaneously develop and bundle emerging technologies into hardware.18 However, of the cross-functional teams, the synthetic training environment (STE) line of effort, which is to serve as the bridge between hardware and soldier, is likely to fall short of expectations.

The STE is likely to underdeliver because, at its core, it is too aspirational to fundamentally transform and measurably improve Army training to justify the resources expended even now in the developmental phase. The STE places too much faith in leveraging costly, fast-paced technology, which will likely be outdated by the time it is fielded. Moreover, what the STE can do for the Army, in many cases, is more effectively achieved through repetitive, manual drills and field training.

The Army risks falling into a Future Combat System-like trap with the STE program by it becoming the latest Army technology infatuation, carried along by institutional momentum and sleek contractor-produced audiovisual aides but lacking objective metrics for what defines success. Therefore, slowing the development of the STE by taking a more measured, focused approach would better serve the Army to better link hardware with soldiers (at the right level) and deliver increased proficiency and capabilities. Doing so will allow the Army to repurpose some of the STE resources pulled from training accounts into actionable programs to address existing combat readiness training gaps outlined here with capabilities that have proven themselves. Even a modest cut to the STE’s planned budget into the Program Objective Memorandum out-years would deliver an improved JPMRC-like LVC capability to the Army’s corps.

Photo by Pfc. Isaih Vega, U.S. Army

Regarding manpower resourcing, fielding additional JPMRC-like LVC capabilities can be achieved by repurposing severely underutilized Army manpower within the CTC program. The Army should objectively face the fact that it has reduced internal demand from having a CTC postured in Germany. The Joint Multinational Readiness Center’s (JMRC) time as a contributing member of the CTC program has passed, for there are no longer two Army corps, five divisions, and two cavalry regiments in Europe, where the JMRC would train fifty-six battalion TFs and squadrons annually.19 There are now just two forward-stationed BCTs left, with one programmed to restation back to the United States, leaving the JMRC a highly reduced, part-time CTC.

What justifies the U.S. Army to maintain JMRC’s 1,501 soldiers and DACs in Europe to support the training readiness of the forces there, when the majority of JMRC’s mission appears to be in support of NATO?20 NATO, and the countries that make it up, are extremely valuable to America’s national interests but are no more valuable than any of our other treaty allies or the combat readiness of our own forces. A candid dialogue should evaluate if the JMRC, under its current utilization, is a sacred cow that should be culled for the betterment of the wider Army. The JMRC has all the manpower necessary to establish a collective training capability to modernize home station training as offered here to the Army corps, including the newly reactivated V Corps.21


The Army has developed and is embracing a new MDO warfighting concept, and it is further transforming its operating force’s capabilities through Futures Command to realize and deliver MDO for the joint force. Yet, our training methodologies have become overengineered, underresourced, and misdirected, putting MDO at risk. Furthermore, captivated by the success of special operations teams combined with a supreme faith in technology over the human dimension, the Army as an institution has banked its future success on focusing its training at the squad level and below. While lower echelon tactical proficiency has proven itself against terrorist and insurgent groups, the Army will find itself unprepared to meet a peer adversary on a multi-domain battlefield.

The JPMRC is an example of how the Army can generate better combat readiness for its battalions and BCTs at their home stations. Multiple repetitions in moving and maneuvering tactical formations at echelon in LVC-enhanced, multiday, force-on-force field exercises is a proven way to develop decisive action skills and experience in our company grade and field grade leaders, preparing them for the rigors of LSCO against a peer adversary. Replicating and fielding a JPMRC-like capability to the Army’s corps is both necessary and achievable. The Army needs aggressive transformational change in its training methodology to get our soldiers, leaders, and units ready prior to the next D-Day, for as our current chief of staff of the Army says, “Winning matters!”22


  1. Paul Herbert, Deciding What Has to Be Done: General William E. DePuy and the 1976 Edition of FM 100-5, Operations, Leavenworth Papers 16 (Fort Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Combat Studies Institute, July 1988), 6.
  2. The Army’s combat training centers and Army Training and Evaluation Program evolved out of the Army’s post-Vietnam War reorganization and transformation, in tandem with the development and implementation of the AirLand Battle doctrine.
  3. Field Manual 7-0, Train to Win in a Complex World (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Publishing Office [GPO], October 2016), 1-1.
  4. The constant rotation of personnel in and out of a squad through permanent change of station, expiration term of service, or involuntary separations prevents Army squads from generating and sustaining the kind of training proficiency proponents envision. Compared to special operations forces, conventional Army squads are composed of soldiers with a markedly decreased baseline set of skills and motivations, are resourced significantly less, and are encumbered with far more distractions other than training.
  5. Army Doctrine Publication 3-0, Operations (Washington, DC: U.S. GPO, July 2019), A-14. The Department of Defense has designated each of the military departments with executive agent (EA) responsibilities. The Army refers to the secretary of the Army’s EA responsibilities as “Army support to other services.” The joint force requires these Army enabling capabilities to function.
  6. Jen Judson, “US Army Chief Says End Strength Will Stay Flat in Upcoming Budgets,” DefenseNews, 16 March 2021, accessed 20 March 2021,; “Military: Military Personnel,” Global Security, accessed 20 March 2021,; Mark F. Cancian, “U.S. Military Forces in FY2021: Army,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, 28 October 2020,accessed 20 March 2021,; Thomas W. Spoehr, “2021 Index of U.S. Military Strength, An Assessment of Military Power: U.S. Army,” The Heritage Foundation, 17 November 2020, accessed 20 March 2021,; Office of the Chief, Army Reserve, America’s Army Reserve at a Glance (Washington, DC: The Pentagon, 2018), 11, accessed 20 March 2021,; Lewis G. Irwin, A Modern Army Reserve for a Multi-Domain World: Structural Realities and Untapped Potential (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute and United States Army War College, October 2019), 30, accessed 20 March 2021, In addition to the training consequences articulated in this article, Total Army balance has many significant operational implications for U.S. operational plans and its ability to timely react to unforecasted events. As an example, the Army Active Component end strength was 562,000 in 2010, but now sits at 486,000, adjusting brigade combat teams (BCT) structure from forty-five BCTs in 2013 to thirty-one today. The Reserve Component also lost end strength during the last decade, when it was reduced from 563,000 in 2010 to 526,000 today. Moreover, the Active and Reserve Components are out of balance, with the Army Reserve alone accounting for more than 80 percent of military information support operations and civil affairs capabilities; 64 percent of quartermaster supply and field services capabilities; more than 50 percent of transportation and medical capabilities; and 40 percent of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high explosive and information operations capabilities. These are just for the U.S. Army Reserve, so when U.S. Army National Guard enabling capabilities are added, the percentages of the Total Army contained within the Reserve Component are significantly out of balance to support rapid transition to hostilities, leaving the Active Army with major capability gaps on D-Day.
  7. Roy E. Appleman, U.S. Army in the Korean War: South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu (Washington, DC: United States Army Center of Military History, 1961); Thomas E. Hanson, Combat Ready? Eighth U.S. Army on the Eve of the Korean War (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2010); T. R. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History (Washington, DC: Brassey’s Publishing, 1994).
  8. HQDA Execute Order, “Transfer of the Exportable Training Capability Instrumentation System (ETC-IS) from United States Forces Command (FORSCOM) to United States Army Pacific (USARPAC),” Headquarters, Department of the Army, 14 March 2013.
  9. Andrew Preston, memorandum, “Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Capability (JPMRC) Terms of Reference,” Fort Shafter, Hawaii, 10 January 2020; The JPMRC Group Cadre Concept White Paper (Fort Shafter, Hawaii: Headquarters, JPMRC, 7 August 2020).
  10. An unenhanced culminating training event (CTE) is an exercise without the live, virtual, constructive (LVC) overwrap. In this particular case, the JPMRC’s instrumentation system was in-transit back to Hawaii after executing an LVC-enhanced BCT CTE in Washington state.
  11. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Guide 3501, The Joint Training System: A Guide for Senior Leaders (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 5 May 2015), 6–8, accessed 7 May 2021, The joint event life cycle is the training event planning methodology, execution phase of the Joint Training System. I Corps’ divisional headquarters referenced here and within this article refer to 7th Infantry Division (ID), 25th ID, and United States Army Alaska. Should JPMRC operations expand to support Army forces in the Republic of Korea under Eighth Army, 2nd ID would be added.
  12. For JPMRC-supported BCT CTEs, the division commander/senior trainer typically designates one of their deputy commanding generals to serve as exercise director and oversee exercise execution and the attainment of training objectives.
  13. The National Training Center and the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) provided invaluable advice and counsel to U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) and the JPMRC during its development on proven methods to synchronize and deliver the LVC domains to tactical formations. While the JPMRC has moved away from its original concept of becoming like a combat training center (CTC), the CTCs continue to serve as a benchmark for delivering LVC-enhanced training to battalions and BCTs.
  14. Title XI is the section within the National Defense Authorization Act, which provides the Regular Army its statutory requirement to support the reserve component. The Army’s force for meeting its statutory commitments to the reserve component are provided through eleven training support brigades (TSBs), ten assigned to Forces Command, and one small TSB (approx. 25 percent the size of its sister TSBs) assigned to USARPAC.
  15. Headquarters, U.S. Army Pacific, JPMRC Concept Plan (Fort Shafter, Hawaii: USARPAC, 28 February 2014); Michael B. Shaeffer, “Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Capability (JPMRC)” (information paper to Chief of Staff Army, Fort Shafter, Hawaii, 23 August 2016). The original fiscal year (FY) 2014 JPMRC operations group (OPSGRP) design proposal consisted of 248 military and Department of the Army civilian positions but was later scaled back to 180 positions in FY 2015. The secretary of the Army approved an FY 2014 focus area review group recommendation to transfer military positions from U.S. Army Europe to USARPAC to resource the JPMRC operations group, and for the transfer to be formalized in the FY 2017–2021 Total Army Analysis. The transfer of military positions did not occur.
  16. Spoehr, “Assessment of Military Power: U.S. Army.” Moreover, the more then $5 trillion stimulus response to the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to incur at best flatlined defense spending, more likely real cuts, particularly to the Army as hyper-competition in the Indo-Pacific realigns defense priorities to the other services.
  17. At its height, Headquarters, Department of the Army, resourced thirteen directed military overhires (DMO) and USARPAC had forty personnel detailed on one-year troop diversion taskings. JPMRC DMOs are in the process of phasing out of the unit, while troop diversions have been reduced to seventeen personnel, mostly enlisted soldiers in the grades of E-1 through E-5.
  18. Sebastian Sprenger, “30 Years: Future Combat Systems—Acquisition Gone Wrong,” DefenseNews, 25 October 2016, accessed 10 March 2021,
  19. Anne W. Chapman, The Army’s Training Revolution, 1973-1990: An Overview (Fort Monroe, VA: U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Office of the Command Historian and the Center of Military History, 1994), 25.
  20. “W04QAA, U.S. Army Joint Multinational Readiness Training Center Table of Distribution and Allowances,” 2 October 2021, accessed 20 March 2021,; “WJCUAA, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment Modified Table of Organization and Equipment,” 16 October 2021, accessed 20 March 2021, The Army’s Force Management System Website (FMSWeb) documents 828 personnel authorizations for the JMRC operations group (OPSGRP), and documents 673 authorizations for the JMRC’s opposing force (OPFOR), 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment.
  21. Repurposing JMRC’s 1,501 authorizations to build four JPMRC-like corps-level home station OPSGRPs would leave the Army more than eight hundred authorizations that it could recover and apply to other much needed operating and generating force requirements, including resourcing multi-domain task forces or returning much needed manpower back to its divisions, corps, and Army service component commands.
  22. James C. McConville, “40th Chief of Staff of the Army Initial Message to the Army Team,”, 12 August 2019, accessed 10 March 2021,


Col. Shawn P. Creamer, U.S. Army, is the deputy director for strategy, policy, and plans at U.S. Forces Korea. He served previously as the commander of the 196th Infantry Brigade and simultaneously as commander of Operations Group for the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Capability. He earned a BA in history from The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and an MA in management and leadership from Webster University. He is a fellow with the Institute for Corean-American Studies. He was the Army War College Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program, where he won the General Matthew B. Ridgway Research Award.


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July-August 2021