“… Seven thousand miles away the Arabs attacked Israel in October 1973. Within a few weeks, General Abrams dispatched me and BG Bob Baer to Israel. There, Bob and I walked battlefields with the IDF Commanders who had fought on them, seeking answers to many questions about the future U.S. Army. … Answers to those questions framed the beginning of what grew into, some nine years later, the doctrine called AirLand Battle, a concept of war at the tactical and operational levels that the U.S. and coalition commanders employed in Operation Desert Storm.”
The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s capstone international engagement is the Future Battlefield Annual Talks (FBAT), held each year with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). This important learning event has roots in TRADOC’s earliest interactions with the IDF Ground Forces following the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Those engagements, and study of the war led by GEN Donn Starry, contributed to development of the U.S. Army’s AirLand Battle Doctrine and the “Big 5”. FBAT remains the most significant and comprehensive U.S. Army bilateral engagement with the IDF. Led by CG, TRADOC and the Commander of the IDF Ground Forces, FBAT brings together Center of Excellence (CoE) Commanders, branch school commandants and their Israeli counterparts to explore a wide range of issues relevant to Army Warfighting Challenges, emerging concepts, capabilities development, science and technology, and R&D. TRADOC will host the 26th FBAT at our centers of excellence and Fort Eustis from 4-8 June 2017. The plenary session will focus on Multi-Domain Battle, with emphasis on the cyber domain, Russia New Generation Warfare, and the network.
This week’s professional reading is an excerpt from Volume 1 of “Press On, Selected Works of General Donn A. Starry” to highlight how thinking and learning about future armed conflict requires careful consideration of threats, enemies, and adversaries, anticipated missions, emerging technologies, and historical observations and lessons learned. Those considerations are sometimes derived from studying the outcomes of battles fought by our allies and partners.
In GEN Starry’s “Reflections on TRADOC’s Analysis of the Yom Kippur War, The Jaffee Center Military Doctrine Joint Conference, Israel, 16 March 1999”, he describes the convergence of events that helped to reshape the U.S. Army following the Vietnam War. There was a lack of attention paid to major combat during the 1960s when the U.S. Army’s focus was firmly on the war in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, the defense of Western Europe from the many armored and mechanized divisions of the Warsaw Pact was another problem altogether with the diversion of resources for operations in Vietnam. When the U.S. Army finally disengaged from that protracted fight, it became clear that its Cold War adversary, the Soviet Army, had modernized. It was equally clear that major changes were needed within the U.S. Army. In October 1972, GEN Creighton Abrams was appointed Chief of Staff and embarked on the mission to rehabilitate his Service for the post-Vietnam era. A significant milestone in this effort was the stand-up of TRADOC on 1 July 1973.
Just three months later, on 6 October 1973, the Yom Kippur War began when an Arab coalition launched a joint surprise attack on Israeli positions in the occupied territories of the Sinai and Golan Heights. Although it was not the Soviets themselves, but their equipment and tactics employed by Syrian and Egyptian allies, the lessons were clear. According to GEN Starry in a speech to the TRADOC Historians Conference on 17 January 1989, “soon laid out for all to see were lessons of the Yom Kippur War: the staggering density of the battlefield at critical points; the presence on both sides of large numbers of modern weapon systems; the increased criticality of command and control; the increased likelihood of interrupted command and control due to large numbers of sophisticated electronic warfare means; the inability of any single weapon system to prevail, reaffirming the essentiality of all arms combat; the outcome of battle reflecting, more often than not, factors other than numbers”. In a Letter to Cadet Marty D’Amato dated 10 April 1998, entitled “AirLand Battle Determinants”, GEN Starry goes on to say, “the Israeli influence on AirLand Battle can scarcely be ignored. For it was their open and generous sharing of IDF lessons from the Yom Kippur War against Soviet-style echeloned formations that vividly demonstrated what we had to do.”
We can draw parallels to the early days of TRADOC. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2016, LTG McMaster’s statement hearkened to the early 1970s when he said, “It is clear that while our Army was engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, Russia studied U.S. capabilities and vulnerabilities and embarked on an ambitious and largely successful modernization effort”. Now, as the U.S. Army addresses lessons from Russia’s New Generation Warfare and begins to explore its next warfighting concept, Multi-Domain Battle, and the capabilities required to execute it, TRADOC continues to illustrate that it’s a learning organization that drives change in the U.S. Army.
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