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08-12-02, 08:35 AM #1
Elaborate special-operations war game wraps up
NORFOLK -- The brains that plan and lead special operations missions are not resting on laurels earned by toppling the Taliban.
In fact, they've already fought the next war -- at least in theory. The Special Operations Command wrapped up its part of a $235 million Joint Forces war game Friday that seeks to combine America's military branches as a seamless team, applying precise force against an enemy's weak spots to take it down.
The Joint Special Operations task force assembled for the war game did just that, planning and executing more than 100 missions carried out by 240 special operators on training grounds across the United States in a 10-day span.
They airdropped soldiers behind enemy lines and called in precise airstrikes to eliminate targets. They used miniature submarines to insert SEALs to check out a beach where Marines planned an amphibious assault. They slipped into enemy territory to find Scud missile launchers, then directed bombers to take out those missiles.
Though the missions were exercises and the battlefields were training grounds, the theories tested could revolutionize American warfare, rendering monthlong equipment build-ups a thing of the past. Precision government-toppling through rapid, decisive operations is the wave of the future, military leaders say.
Special operations has a number of roles in this new way of war, said Col. Michael Findlay, special operations commander at Joint Forces Command. One, he said, is to help shape conditions for victory by locating sympathizers on the ground and developing intelligence.
Another is to help shape the transition to peace by assisting the recovery of the vanquished foe's people.
At the Norfolk Naval Station, the command center for the special operations war game task force is staffed by many veteran planners who helped lead last fall's triumph in Afghanistan. The center is filled with computers that link all of the participating special operators in the field and their commanders, be they in the air, on land or at sea.
Because talking means noise and radios risk detection, encrypted Internet-modeled chat rooms have replaced the radio as the preferred method of communication for special operations, and the war game took technology even further.
Using laptops and satellite transmitters in the field, special operators were able to send digital images of targets back to headquarters to aid conventional forces in planning attacks. Task force planners and commanders were able to look at the images, create and share images of battle plans and debate the merits in secure chat rooms, said task force operations officer Lt. Col. Jon White, who was awarded the Bronze Star for his planning of Special Forces missions in Afghanistan.
Troops wore transponders that allowed commanders to see them as moving blue dots on topographical maps. They also carried in their pants pockets fold-up, remote-control airplanes that allowed them to see -- and beam to headquarters -- bird's-eye views of enemy positions, said Lt. Col. Wes Rehorn, the task force's chief of staff.
Though the ``live'' portion of the Millennium Challenge 2002 exercise is over, participants will spend next week filing reports that could lead changes in the way America wages war.
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