"Phantom" / "Counterattack Corps" / America's Hammer
The mission of III Corps is to, when directed, deploy to a theater of operations, conduct military operations and redeploy. As the Nation's Counteroffensive Force, III Corps trains, mobilizes, deploys, and sustains ready forces; on order, conducts decisive full-spectrum joint or combined operations.
Training for counteroffensive combat operations was III Corps' main effort. The Counteroffensive Force was designed to meet existing needs in a dangerous and unstable world. It was offensive in nature and a departure from the old Cold War strategy, which was defensive in nature. Everything III Corps did was designed to support our preparations to fight and win. It was imperative that III Corps' war-winning readiness and deployability remain high. Actual threats and the contemporary operating environment (COE) threat had to be replicated in training.
By the turn of the millenia, III Corps had unique challenges. Its headquarters was at Fort Hood, Texas; it had an air cavalry brigade in Korea; and its Corps Artillery was at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. This distance between key elements, combined with high personnel turnover, intensified the need for rigorous training during the few times it was able to bring the entire team together.
Operating Tempo (OPTEMPO) objectives were not just as a measure of training readiness. The objective training standard was the Combined Arms Training Strategy (CATS) standard of 800 miles per year and 14.5 hours per airframe per month or the equivalent OPTEMPO standard for other unit. All miles executed at the National Training Center (NTC) and during Contingency Operations (CONOPS) were in excess of that standard.
All III Corps units had to be prepared on short notice to deploy to a theater of operations and conduct military operations in support of Commander in Chief missions. Additionally, there were emerging requirements to be prepared to conduct operational missions in the Continental United States (CONUS). Emphasis was placed on the execution of decisive offensive counter-attack operations. In general, commanders could achieve appropriate levels of force protection, deployment readiness, and training competency in a noncompetitive environment. However, when conflicts arose, commanders were to prioritize as follows: Force Protection, followed by METL-based training.
III Corps strived to maintain air and ground equipment to the Army's 10/20 standards at all levels. In general, ground combat systems had to be maintained at a 90 percent Operational Readiness (OR) rate, Utility Helicopter UH-60 at 75 percent OR, and air combat systems at a 70 percent OR rate. Conducting quality maintenance on tactical equipment enhances and facilitates training and warfighting and training are inseparable.
III Corps had to do this within the framework of Department of the Army (DA) and FORSCOM guidance that dictated that III Corps become the standard bearer of the Army's Legacy Force. The Army was investing in industry and technologies to create the objective force, to transform the Army from its existing Cold War organization and equipment into a force that better utilized its full-spectrum capabilities in a more strategically deployable force. The Army would continue to modernize and upgrade the legacy forces, III Corps and and XVIII Airborne Corps, as a hedge to fight wars.
For the next 15 to 20 years, the existing force would represent the bulwark of the land forces of the United States, and they had be maintained in sufficient readiness and capability to perform all potential missions. The nucleus of this force was to be the Counterattack Corps, which is based upon the Army's III Corps in Fort Hood, Texas. In balancing its resources, the Army decided that this Corps would receive the highest priority for recapitalization and modernization efforts in order to ensure its peak readiness and capability for warfighting missions. As a result, it would receive modernized systems such as the M1A2 System Enhancement Program (SEP) Abrams tank, the M2A3 Bradley, Crusader, as well as other new or upgraded systems in a variety of areas. III Corps consisted of both Active and Reserve Components, all of which would be modernized to ensure that the Counterattack Corps was ready for any and all missions.
The Army transformation strategy required a capable recapitalized legacy force focused on a digitized heavy counterattack corps. The existing Army plan was to limit recapitalization to the Counterattack Corps. Recapitalization did not modernize the force. It was broken into 2 separate programs: rebuild and selective upgrade. Rebuild restored systems to a like-new condition in appearance, performance, and life expectancy. Selected upgrade rebuilt the systems and also inserted new technology to improve reliability and maintainability. Recapitalization reduced the Army's near-term operational risk by extending the service life of existing warfighting systems thru an aggressive program. The essential point was that in order to generate the investment capital required to accelerate transformation to the revolutionary Objective Force, the Army had skipped a generation of procurement.
The III Corps was fully engaged in transformation and was the first fighting force of its size equipped with a complete suite of interoperable, automated Command, Control, Communications, Computer, and Intelligence systems. These systems laid the foundation for Network Centric Warfare and dominance of the information sphere. Keeping III Corps and other Legacy Forces the best in the world was a vital part of the transformation of the US Army. The fielding of modernized and recapitalized systems was focused on the counterattack corps headquartered at Fort Hood. The Army had already begun fielding enhanced Battle Command Systems within III Corps. Combat platforms like the M1A2 System Enhanced Program (SEP), the M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle and AH-64D Apache attack helicopter were integrated into the Army Battle Command System. Taken together, these systems represented a dramatic capability to conduct decisive combat, at the time and planned for the future. Along with information and materiel system fielding, III Corps units continued to reorganize under new Modified Table of Organization and Equipment, while inculcating updated doctrine tactical techniques and procedures into formations.
Under a new concept called "Corps Packaging," all of the National Guard's 8 combat divisions and 15 enhanced separate brigades would be matched with active-component divisions at the corps level. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki announced this expansion of teaming between active and Guard divisions on 14 September 2000 in a speech to the National Guard Association annual conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Under III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas, the 7th Infantry Division's headquarters at Fort Carson, Colorado, would align with the Guard's 39th Infantry Brigade in Arkansas, the 41st Infantry Brigade in Oregon, the 45th Infantry Brigade in Oklahoma and the 155th Armored Brigade in Mississippi. The 49th Armored Division remained paired with the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood; Minnesota's 34th Infantry Division with the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood; and Indiana's 38th Infantry Division with Fort Carson, Colorado.
With the beginning of the transformation of the US Army to the modular force structure in 2003, these relationships were modified, and units were realigned within III Corps and FORSCOM as a whole. As the deployment concept changed, the pairing of of active and reserve component units was no longer necessary, and formal relationships were eliminated. The III Corps headquarters was transformed into an expeditionary corps headquarters, and many of its maneuver units, as well as various support units, were realigned directly under FORSCOM.
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