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Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams
as a Force Multiplier

The Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany provides training for operational mentor and liaison teams from NATO countries working with the Afghan National Army.

Operational mentor and liaison teams (OMLTs) are 20- to 25-Soldier teams created under an agreement among North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries to mentor and coach the Afghan National Army (ANA) in using coalition-provided battlefield enablers. The Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) at Hohenfels, Germany, offers OMLTs from all participating nations the opportunity to practice mentoring and coaching techniques with ANA staff and company representatives. This article describes the basic structure of OMLT training at JMRC and some of the challenges faced during the OMLT training.

OMLT Organization
OMLTs arrive at JMRC as a collection of senior officers and noncommissioned officers structured to plan and execute ANA advisory duties and to assist the ANA staff and combat units in establishing peace and maintaining stability in their assigned areas of operation.

OMLTs are task-organized into company mentors and battalion mentors. OMLT mentors center their efforts on nine mission-essential tasks that are paired with a set of training objectives that are assessed and evaluated during the training exercise. As advisers to Afghan sustainment units, OMLTs play a critical role in training and advising units on how to provide estimates and coordinate resources while executing staff functions. OMLTs also serve as troop mentors to ensure that the effective execution of security measures enables the employment of logistics assets.

Staff Exercises
Staff exercises focus on building a coordinated team to synchronize the resources needed to meet mission requirements that support International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) objectives. Each staff element is responsible for collecting data, analyzing requirements, and aligning resources in order to meet mission objectives. OMLT staffs mentor their ANA counterparts to use available assets, coordinate with higher level command and adjacent units, fill voids in sustainment requirements, and synchronize sustainment missions.

Troop-Adviser Training
Troop-adviser training focuses on ensuring that distribution of sustainment requirements can be accomplished effectively. OMLT advisers in this role will advise and mentor their Afghan counterparts on the use of sustainment platforms, effective security measures to take during distribution missions, and battlefield enablers to enhance security. They mentor ANA soldiers on performing medical and casualty evacuation and communicating to ensure synchronization of unit activities within a given area of operations. Theater guidance and current tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) employed by ISAF are also discussed and practiced during this training.

Classroom-Based Instruction
OMLT training at JMRC is based on a 5-day period of instruction that solidifies the doctrinally based approach to mission execution and aligns operational procedures with NATO standards and requirements. Classes include the HMMWV [high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle] Egress Assistance Trainer (HEAT), the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 (EST 2000), the Call for Fire Trainer, and the Virtual Battle Space Simulator (VBS2) simuator.

HEAT. HEAT is offered as a 2-hour block of instruction and practical exercise. OMLT Soldiers are briefed by a subject-matter expert and then permitted to mount the simulated HMMWV chassis as a crew—driver, truck commander, and two dismounts. (No gunner position is on the trainer.) This orientation emphasizes evacuating a vehicle that has rolled over.

EST 2000.
EST 2000 is programmed for a 4-hour block of orientation and follow-on exercise. OMLT members are briefed on how to use the trainer and the objectives of employing accurate, coordinated small-arms fire during a simulated squad exercise. OMLT members rotate through each position on the firing line, including the squad leader’s position. Team members are tasked during the exercise with directing rates of fire, employing sectors of fire, and managing sustained fire from mounted and dismounted positions.

Call for Fire Trainer. The Call for Fire Trainer is used for 2-hour blocks to train and reinforce the integration and tactical employment of a variety of indirect fire weapons. OMLT members train in an immersive environment as forward observers and are placed in a 360-degree simulated battlespace with a variety of scenarios that enable them to identify and react to simulated threats using the skill sets that must be honed to a fine edge.

VBS2. VBS2 is normally integrated into a situational training exercise (STX) as a communications and mounted land-navigation reinforcement tool. When OMLTs are not engaged in STX training, OMLT personnel operate the VBS2 as they would their assigned combat platforms and communications equipment, further reinforcing individual roles and communications responsibilities. Terrain can be programmed into the simulator to replicate the environment that OMLTs can expect to encounter either in the training area or while deployed.

During simulation exercises, additional stressors can be added to scenarios that go beyond what can be introduced in the physical training environment. Opposing forces, aviation assets, indirect fire, and complex obstacles are employed by the team of VBS2 technical coordinators, and scenarios are carefully crafted to support specific training objectives.

Tactical Training
Tactical training consists of a 7-day course of evaluation based on current NATO doctrine and TTP from the theater and the planned area of operations. The first 2 days of training are done in a replicated training environment as a tactical exercise without troops, with 1 day of conducting troop-leading procedures and precombat checks and inspections. This exercise is followed by a scaled-down version of the STX training that will be conducted over the 5 days following observer-controller and trainer evaluation of each OMLT team.

This first look at each OMLT by its assigned observer-controller and trainer team enables an assessment of the OMLT’s TTP and subsequent input to the STX planner for the pace and difficulty of training that each OMLT will face during STX training.

OMLTs are first briefed on the training objectives for the particular engagement, focusing on four areas of concern: counter-improvised explosive device (IED) operations, medical rules of engagement (which include medical evacuation procedures), reaction to sustained enemy contact, and set up and operation of effective traffic- and entry-control points.

Engagements are then reset to enable execution at combat speed. Based on the degree of proficiency exhibited, engagements can be reset to enable further emphasis on the basics to reach training objectives or the intensity of the engagement can be elevated incrementally through the use of enablers to build on skills that have been mastered.

Counter-IED operations. OMLTs are given a map indicating enemy activity throughout their planned routes. They conduct enemy activity and terrain analysis while en route to their destination. When traversing an IED “hot spot,” OMLTs must take appropriate precautions and locate well-hidden IEDs. When they find an IED emplacement, OMLTs must establish proper standoff distance, set up site security, and submit a properly detailed request for explosive ordnance detachment personnel. They must also alert the battlespace owner of the obstacle and its location.

Medical rules of engagement. Training medical rules of engagement involves a multifaceted approach to interacting with replicated civilian casualties. OMLTs are challenged with an engagement that demands establishing site security, using an interpreter, assessing wounds and triage, and coordinating with battlespace owners to contact additional ANA personnel to supplement site security and provide casualty evacuation.

React to contact. OMLTs are challenged with a multilayered, sustained attack from opposing forces consisting of multiple elements. Initiated by disabling an OMLT vehicle that requires a hasty recovery, this engagement trains many warrior tasks and drills, including shoot, move, communicate, survive, adapt, and associated battle drills. This scenario finishes with requirements to establish landing zones and prepare and execute medical evacuation.

In the practical application of these training and skill sets at the STX, OMLTs prove to be a capable force multiplier. When an OMLT’s performance is compared side-by-side to a typical U.S. Army rotational unit, three distinct differences come to light:

  • Use of interpreters.
  • Mounted navigation skills.
  • Employment of troop-leading procedures.

Some differences can be attributed to the seniority of OMLT personnel, their skills, and their ability to quickly analyze situations and integrate available assets. Generally speaking, units coming from NATO countries operate under similar doctrinal guidance and OMLT advisers have taken the time to research ISAF and other theater-related guidance.

When OMLTs are operating optimally, time is spent providing additional training and disseminating information to their ANA counterparts, enabling greater situational awareness and integration of ideas and tactics between units. The seniority of OMLT personnel tends to eliminate reluctance to employ the assigned OMLT interpreter and ANA role players. OMLTs also spend more time and energy during troop-leading procedures than most U.S. units, particularly during orders production and battle-drill rehearsals.

Culmination Exercise
At the conclusion of each OMLT rotation, an integrated culmination exercise takes place that requires OMLTs from each represented branch (maneuver, fires, and effects; operations support; and force sustainment) to perform integrated staff planning in order to reach common mission objectives. Each OMLT is responsible for planning and employing a scheme of maneuver, intelligence preparation of the battlefield, internal security, exploitation of collected intelligence, and sustainment operations.

Sustainment OMLT staffs are tasked with identifying logistics requirements, performing logistics estimates to meet force requirements, and aligning those requirements against available assets (with the implied task of requesting further support if assets on hand do not meet mission requirements). OMLT troop advisers mentor and assist in generating and executing an effective security plan during sustainment operations, ranging from establishing refuel on-the-move sites and medical and casualty evacuation to convoy security of their distribution missions.

The training and employment of each additional OMLT means further success for forward-deployed forces as security and support requirements for Operation Enduring Freedom continue in the future. OMLTs will continue to do their part in ensuring a more ready and capable ANA as they work to train the ANA in the art of sustainable logistics operations.

Major John F. Jacques is the senior observer-controller for the distribution company at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center at Hohenfels, Germany. He is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic Course and the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course.

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