A field training exercise, generally shortened to the acronym "FTX", describes a coordinated exercise conducted by military units for training purposes.
In active duty
Field training exercises are usually practice "mini-battles" which provide fairly realistic scenarios and situations based on actual situations a unit might face if deployed. While squad and platoon sized units can conduct an FTX, most of these exercises involve units ranging from a company up to a regiment or brigade. Field training exercises rarely reach division strength.
The exercise is usually carefully planned out by field grade or general officers, usually without disclosing plans or other information to company-grade officers. This makes the situation more unpredictable and realistic since company-grade officers make the majority of quick and immediate decisions on the battlefield. Nearly every possibility is considered during planning, and often the scenarios can be more difficult or more far-fetched than actual battles, thus sharpening the skills of those participating to a level which will surpass that of the enemy.
In basic training
All branches of the U.S. Armed Forces implement field training exercises into their basic military training courses for enlistees and officers. In the Army and often in other branches, the last few days of basic training are used to conduct a field training exercise where recruits can practice the skills they have learned over the past several weeks of training. The purpose of this is to give soon-to-be soldiers a taste of battle before they leave basic training. This also allows instructors to look for mistakes and correct them before their recruits become active duty and potentially go to battle.
U.S. military examples
- The 101st Airborne Division is famous for its field training exercises. Most of its brigades or regiments conduct their own field training exercises annually and the entire division has conducted a division wide exercise on a couple of occasions. These exercises generally consist of the entire unit deploying to the location by parachute (note that the 101st is not an Airborne unit, they only have the Airborne tab because of tradition—they are air assault), followed by multi-day engagements with the "enemy".
- The United States Air Force conducts Operation Red Flag four to six times a year. This is a multifaceted field training exercise consisting of various things such as air-to-air and air-to-ground engagements, mid-air refueling, reconnaissance, close air support, and airlift, as well as special forces and rescue operations.