Virus Outbreak Begins to Delay Units' Army Combat Training Center Rotations

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Army National Training Center in Fort Irwin
U.S. Army soldiers tactically maneuver toward objective during Decisive Action Rotation 20-05 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, March 11, 2020. (U.S. Army photo/Kyler Chatman)

The U.S. Army announced Wednesday it is adjusting the rotation schedule for the service's National Training Center to allow units to support the response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

For now, the adjustment specifically affects the 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, a Washington Army National Guard unit that has been made "available to the governor of Washington state to respond to the current situation there," according to a news release.

The 81st SBCT was scheduled to conduct its month-long rotation at NTC during the month of May, according to Army spokeswoman Cheryle Rivas.

Right now it's unclear when the 81st will go to NTC, Rivas said.

"Department of the Army senior leaders are analyzing different options to determine how best to ensure that the 81st SBCT has the premiere collective training opportunity that a Combat Training Center provides," Rivas said in a statement.

Currently, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division from Fort Carson, Colorado is set to conduct its rotation to NTC in June, Rivas said.

Despite the adjustment, the Army will continue to meet readiness requirements, Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, deputy chief of staff of Operations, Plans and Training, said in a news release.

"Although we are adjusting the training calendar, the Army Combat Training Centers (CTC) will continue to focus on improving unit readiness by providing highly realistic, stressful, joint and combined-arms training across the full spectrum of conflict," Flynn said.

Related: At National Training Center, Soldiers Now Train for What They Dread: A Fair Fight

The National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California; Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana; and Joint Multinational Readiness Center at Hohenfels, Germany, hold brigade-level training exercises for armored brigade combat teams, infantry brigade combat teams and Stryker brigade combat teams and are a key measurement for the service's combat readiness.

The CTCs have transitioned from mission-rehearsal exercises designed for tours in Iraq and Afghanistan to decisive-action rotations to prepare units for combat against near-peer adversaries such as China and Russia.

At NTC, combat units are forced to operate in a battlespace the size of Rhode Island against formidable opposing forces equipped with armored vehicles, artillery, drones and helicopters. The rapid pace of operations is designed to test even the best units' ability to adapt as they try to seize key terrain and defend against enemy counterattacks.

The Army's fiscal 2021 budget request will fund 24 CTC rotations for the active force and four rotations for the National Guard and Reserves.

"The Army will continue to reevaluate the situation as conditions change, and the protection of the health and safety of our soldiers and their families will remain the Army's top priority," the release states.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Read More: Headed to the Army's National Training Center? Here's What You Need to Know

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