NATO representatives participated in a panel focused on “Addressing Gaps in NATO Forces” featured at the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement’s Land Forces Training conference in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 28.


Dr. Jim Blake, former head of U.S. Army Program Executive Office Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, served as moderator for the event. Sharing their insights, were Polish army Lt. Col. Arkadiusz Skrzek, liaison officer to Headquarters, Department of the Army; Dutch army Col. Frank Overdiek, Land Training Centre commandant; and Wim Huiskamp, chief scientific officer for NATO’s Modeling and Simulation Group.


The goal of this talk was to identify training deficiencies across NATO forces, discuss the role of technology and modern training methods to close those gaps, and establish an effective feedback mechanism to assess success for continuous improvement.


All the panelists noted in their opening comments that interoperability standards were important in resolving training gaps among NATO members.


Skrzek said that, given recent history, “we don’t have the luxury of waiting for the simulation age to catch up to the weapons systems characteristics of which they are to replicate.” He also emphasized that training times needed to be compressed and that there was no time to wait for the “lessons learned” of stove piped systems.


“Poland needs to move training for large-scale combat operations (LSCO) into virtual-constructive domains, but we’re not yet there,” Skrzek said. “We’re still trying to catch up to what the U.S. is doing…and we’re still just standing up the foundation for a live-virtual-constructive build up in future years. This is something we’ll need to replicate with the most realism possible [because] we won’t be able to control the space in a LSCO environment the way we did in Afghanistan.”


When the panel discussed collective training, Overdiek said that “everyone is struggling to find a model to get warfighting capability back.” Currently, Dutch units that intend to conduct a company-level field training exercise (FTX) have to train in a simulator first, which is a mandatory requirement.


“It amounts to ‘comply or explain,’” Overdiek said. “There is no question about whether you want to use a simulator, that’s already been decided by the commander of land forces. If you go to a high-fidelity simulator, you can train on a company level, and that’s the best way to prepare yourself for an FTX. We’re trying to synchronize this with the Bundeswher since we [the Dutch military] are now integrated together.”


Blake later asked the participants about building a common opposition force to ensure all NATO members would train to fight the same enemy and prepare for the right battle.


“Nations see the importance of a persistent training capability, but organizations need time to move,” Huiskamp said. “The will is there, the technical solutions are there, and as long as we turn it into a more persistent organization, we can incrementally improve. We can do an exercise or an experiment one week, and next week we can try again, but currently we don’t have that as consistent solution. So, every three years we start from scratch – and that needs to change.”

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