New Combat Realities Forge New Force

June 2005
By Henry S. Kenyon

According to the U.S. Army’s 2005 Posture Statement, soldiers such as Sgt. Tony Blair, USA (l), 940th Military Police (MP) Company, will soon see reinforcements with the addition of 100,000 soldiers moving into high-demand job positions.
Transformation initiative emphasizes unit rotation, modernization and stability.

Operational demands are motivating the U.S. Army to shift troops from low-demand occupations such as field artillery and air defense so it can field more military police, civil affairs and transportation units. These changes are part of an ambitious effort to transform the service from a division-based force to a more mobile one built around brigade-size combat units. Integral to these efforts are programs designed to reset units to the new requirements, to maintain unit cohesion by letting troops spend more time in one unit and to create a stable, predictable rotation and maintenance cycle for active duty, reserve and National Guard forces.

As outlined in the Army’s annual report to Congress, the 2005 Posture Statement, the service is undergoing its greatest change in more than half a century. At the heart of this restructuring is a shift to smaller, rapidly deployable and self-sufficient formations. The objective in moving to these brigade combat teams (BCTs) is to increase the size and combat power of the Army’s active component, explains Col. Eric L. Ashworth, USA, a strategic planner in the Office of the Army Chief of Staff, Washington, D.C., and one of the authors of the 2005 Posture Statement.

Shifting to modular units will increase the Army’s pool of available forces from 48 to 77 brigades with 10 additional brigades entering service by the end of 2006. Part of this effort involves transferring personnel from low-demand positions to those needed in the current operational environment. The Army is moving 100,000 soldiers with military occupational specialties (MOS) in areas such as artillery, air defense, engineering, armor and logistics to new roles as military police (MP) and as petroleum/water distribution, civil affairs, psychological operations and biological agent detection personnel. These changes will affect soldiers in the active duty, National Guard and reserve forces. Some 34,000 positions already have been converted.

The shift in MOS billets primarily will affect entire units as opposed to individual soldiers. Col. Ashworth notes that National Guard and reserve forces already are experienced with this process. “If you talk to reservists, they will say 20 years ago we were an MP unit, then we were an engineer unit, then we changed to a field artillery unit, and now we’re an MP unit again,” he says.

The colonel cites a field artillery battalion now deploying to Iraq as a transportation battalion as an example of the transformation process. “Artillery has a lot of truck drivers, so it makes sense to park the guns and get everyone up to speed on driving. They still have the battalion headquarters in place—the leadership and the chain of command are already developed. All they do is train up on new pieces of equipment and their new mission tasks, run them through an assessment and send them off,” he explains.

By 2011, the Army plans to expand its MP billets from 38,000 soldiers to more than 57,000. The MP combat support structure will grow to nine battalion headquarters and 52 combat support MP companies, while internment/resettlement forces performing detainee operations will increase to seven battalion headquarters and 27 new companies.

As units shift their skills to meet the new requirements, some formations such as communications battalions will cease to exist because the modular BCTs will have their own organic communications, transport and artillery capabilities. For soldiers in these assimilated units, the new structure will alter the chain of command and create new training requirements. “A signal lieutenant now has a lot more responsibility than he did in the older style army. Where he used to have a [signals battalion] command structure supporting him, now he will be out there without a large signals community behind him. What skills does he need to work directly with an infantry commander?” Col. Ashworth offers.

The colonel notes that the Army’s combat training centers had to shift their operational focus based on the nature of the ongoing conflict. Prior to September 11, 2001, the centers concentrated on preparing troops for combat against opposing armies with large infantry and mechanized formations. The new training focuses on fighting small units of dispersed enemies in urban areas. Besides combat, the training efforts provide experience in dealing with humanitarian and other interactions with the civilian population. “How do you teach a unit to deal with a rowdy mob in the middle of a city?” he asks.

Upgrading units to meet the new requirements outlined in the posture statement is the goal of the reset program. This effort consolidates the service’s different operational components. Col. Ashworth notes that in the active-duty force, units are deployed in the continental United States, forward deployed in regions such as Western Europe and South Korea or involved in combat operations. This variation in unit status affects equipment and staffing levels across the Army. The colonel reveals that forces in combat zones get the best equipment immediately, but U.S.-based units may wait as long as six months for some types of supplies.

The reset program will provide a common standard for equipping and training units. As active and reserve units rotate out of operational zones, they will be re-equipped and modernized to conform to the new standard. “It’s an attempt to have one army instead of four armies,” the colonel shares.

Another aspect of the reset program concerns prepositioning around the world supply stocks that the Army relies on to get forces into a region quickly. But these stockpiles cannot be replenished during a conflict because the materiel is needed to support ongoing operations. “We need some time to reset those stocks so that we’re ready for the next conflict,” Col. Ashworth observes.

When brigades rotate back to the United States, they will convert to the new modular unit concept. The 33 maneuver brigades in the Army’s current active duty component will expand into 43 to 48 brigades. Reserve and National Guard forces also will grow to between 29 and 34 brigades. Seven of the 10 new Army BCTs will be infantry-based. The BCTs include embedded artillery and reconnaissance assets that were previously available only at the division level. The 10th Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division already have reorganized their maneuver brigades into infantry BCTs.

Unit cohesion is another important factor addressed by the position statement. The Army recently launched a force stabilization program designed to keep soldiers in their units longer by reducing the number of personnel rotations. The colonel is sanguine about the program’s potential because it allows soldiers to become more experienced in their jobs and permits units to focus more time on learning new skills.

Soldiers of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division practice a static line jump at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Army’s position statement calls for developing a predictable rotation schedule for active Army, reserve and National Guard forces. This timetable would establish regular training, maintenance and deployment cycles for units. The structure would allow commanders and soldiers’ families to prepare for upcoming deployments more efficiently.
Stabilization also will benefit military family life. The current operational tempo is straining many families through the increased absences of spouses and the need to move dependents to new facilities. Keeping soldiers together in a unit longer allows families to remain at a post longer, reducing additional personal stress. “It’s something that’s long overdue,” Col. Ashworth maintains.

Another part of the Army’s transformation process is maintaining and updating the Institutional Army, the network of organizations and activities that generates and sustains the training, ready and available forces. It consists of training, educational, supply and logistics installations in the United States. But Col. Ashworth cautions that the support provided by these facilities and the support forces operating with active combat units are distinct.

This interpretation extends to personnel. For example, when soldiers go through basic training, they are part of the Institutional Army. But once trained and part of a deployable unit, they become part of combat forces. The colonel adds that some facilities are oriented primarily for combat forces because of the units they host.

Among the transformation initiatives underway in the Institutional Army is a cradle-to-grave life-cycle management program for equipment. According to Lt. Col. William Adams, USA, executive officer, Office of Institutional Force Adaptations, G3/5/7 Force Management, Crystal City, Virginia, the goal is to have a central source for parts and equipment within the Army. This effort improves the current system, which requires that supplies go through several different commands. “One of our initiatives is to link all of that together,” he says.

Many of the programs within the position statement are being undertaken through the Army Campaign Plan, which is designed to provide direction for the detailed organization, preparation and execution of the service’s goals. Col. Adams notes that the campaign plan is a document that is tracked daily and weekly. All of the recommendations, findings and other data for future changes in the Army are put into the plan. He adds that much of the campaign plan already is underway, with some efforts either complete or being implemented; others may not launch until 2007 or 2008.

Aligning the rotation cycles of active, National Guard and reserve forces to improve operational predictability is the goal of the Army’s force-generation model. These cycles will allow units to conduct training and re-equipping procedures according to a set schedule. For example, if a unit is slated to be available for deployment in five years, it can focus on training and equipment over the upcoming four years.

This scheduling provides predictability not only for the units but for soldiers’ families as well, Col. Adams explains. He notes that if a unit is scheduled to be ready for deployment or to be deployed for a year, spouses would have the time to prepare, perhaps choosing to stay with relatives or to become involved in activities while the force is overseas. “I think predictability is something the Army really needs,” he says.

The Army’s force-generation model is an important part of the posture statement. The service is exploring the use of three- or four-year cycles to rotate and reset units. Col. Adams cautions that this model is still under development, but adds that a hypothetical three-year cycle would begin with the arrival of new soldiers to a battalion. This might be up to 600 troops, or 60 percent of its force. The unit would change commands at the same time, and its new commander would take charge of the new cycle. For the subsequent eight or nine months, additional soldiers and new equipment would be assigned to the unit. The force would begin a training cycle to prepare for deployment, and at the end of the third year, the cycle would begin again.

Army planners are determining issues such as when the reset day should be and the logistics of scheduling hundreds of soldiers and pieces of new materiel to arrive on specific dates. “It’s not going to be easy at the beginning,” Col. Adams warns. “Right now, people are trying to figure out at what point do we want to begin to implement this. It will be difficult, and it may take several years to bring everybody in line, but then there will be some predictability.”


Web Resource
U.S. Army Posture Statement: