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Savannah Morning News April 04, 2004

New fight. New Force

The 3rd ID leads Army reorganization efforts as soldiers move away from the traditional Cold War approach to warfare

By Noelle Phillips

Iraq never launched a single helicopter or jet against the 3rd Infantry Division as it marched toward Baghdad last year. Still, the division had a battalion of air defense artillery soldiers and all of the equipment that goes with it.

Instead of shooting down planes, the air defense artillery soldiers found themselves fighting like the infantry.

"The Air Force will tell you that not a single American soldier has been killed by hostile aircraft since the Korean War," said Maj. Gen. William Webster, the division commander. "It will not be a threat of the future, so we can reduce the amount of air defense in the whole Army."

The use of air defense artillery battalions is just one example of how the Army is still organized as if it were ready to fight the Soviets on a Cold War battlefield.

That outdated design is the reason behind a massive reorganization taking place within the 3rd Division.

Army officials want to shift the fighting focus away from divisions to smaller brigades. The 3rd Division is the first to undergo the changes. It will serve as the lab monkey for the Army as a whole as it reorganizes the rest of its divisions over the next three years.

The charge to reorganize came last fall when Webster took command after the war. His superiors ordered him to make the changes. He's been trying to figure out how to implement those changes since.

The goal is for the 3rd Division to have its new look before returning to Iraq, which will be sometime between November and February.

"It's pretty ambitious but feasible," Webster said.

Changing times

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been preaching Army transformation since he took office in 2001.

Rumsfeld brought Gen. Peter Schoomaker, a former special operations commander, out of retirement to make him the Army's Chief of Staff with the order to make it happen.

It was Schoomaker who tagged the 3rd Infantry Division to become the first reorganized division within the Army.

Just home from Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 3rd Division was the Army's only major unit that wasn't at war - or on its way there.

Plus, the 3rd Division, with its armored tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, was a classic example of the Army's use of combat forces designed to fight a Cold War battle.

The U.S. military no longer needs to prepare for a slug-fest against the Soviet Union, where there would have been clear battle lines as tanks faced off, said Marcus Corbin, senior analyst for the Center for Defense Information.

"Nobody wants to stand up and fight us anymore," Corbin said. "The U.S. Army, for all its technological advantages, is having people killed every day by gerry-rigged bombs on the side of the road."

Under the current structure, the Army is centered around divisions, which include somewhere between 16,000 to 20,000 troops.

When the military needs a mission accomplished, it sends a division even though it may be a larger force than is actually needed, said Michele Flournoy, a senior advisor with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

As a result, unneeded people and equipment go to war.

Getting more ground fighters

What the Army needs is more soldiers on the ground in fighting roles. Troops on the ground need to be "trigger-pullers" as opposed to clerks or operators of unnecessary equipment.

The long range of an artillery canon isn't as useful when soldiers are fighting door-to-door urban combat.

Because of satellite communications and wireless technology, fewer soldiers are needed to run cables and set up antennas.

Because pay stubs and other forms are online, fewer finance clerks are needed to file paperwork.

To get there, the Army will shift soldiers out of fields such as artillery, signal and personnel.

As the division cuts back soldiers in those fields, it will transfer them to branches such as armor, infantry or military police, Webster said.

John Pike, a defense watcher who runs the Web site www.globalsecurity.org , predicts the Army will outsource many of those old jobs to private contractors such as Kellogg, Brown and Root. That company already does a majority of cooking for troops in Iraq, he said.

"The Army looked at that and said we need more people out driving Humvees instead of slinging hash in the mess halls," Pike said.

The latest lineup

It's still too early for details about how the 3rd Division will use its 17,000 soldiers.

Webster's staff continues to work on a structure for some roles such as reconnaissance and support.

What Webster does know is he will have four ground maneuver brigades and an enhanced aviation brigade that will have more than double the number of helicopters now assigned to Hunter Army Airfield.

While the four maneuver brigades won't be as large as brigades under the old system, they will have 25 percent more armor and mechanized infantry troops, meaning there will be more firepower.

All of this could add somewhere between 1,000 to 5,000 more troops at Fort Stewart and Hunter, Webster said. He's not sure where they would be located.

Hunter's runway and flight line are big enough to accommodate the additional helicopters, but there's not room for offices or additional barracks.

The new soldiers most likely will not relocate to Fort Stewart before the division returns to Iraq, Webster said.

"We're not talking about that yet because to get us ready to deploy, we don't need them to move here," he said. "We will go to Iraq with a provisional kind of 3rd ID, partially reorganized and partially with the current capabilities."

Improving troops' lives

Military experts say the Army's reorganization has as much to do with retaining troops as it does with fighting wars.

"At the end of the day, an awful lot of what they're doing is focused on retention," Pike said.

The Army is straining under the pressure of its global commitments - Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and dozens of other countries. Because of those missions, soldiers are constantly deployed for long periods of time.

That means leaving families behind while soldiers live in miserable, often life-threatening conditions.

As a result, the Army fears soldiers - and their families - will opt out of the service.

In fact, Pike believes the magnitude of the reorganization reflects the magnitude of a future retention problem.

In the end, the Army hopes that a larger number of maneuver brigades means deployment schedules are more predictable and deployments less frequent, Pike said.

The Army has 33 maneuver brigades, but hopes to increase that number by 10 to 15 within the next three years.

With those 43 to 48 brigades, the Army could set up a schedule so that units know in advance when it was their turn to be deployed.

"It might - might - give us the opportunity to have a brigade remain in the U.S. longer before it goes back into combat," Webster said.

Will it work?

Time will tell how this structure works on the battlefield.

But that time will come quickly.

Already, the first reorganized unit is getting tested on a mock battlefield at Fort Irwin, Calif. Webster will spend two weeks with the unit to monitor its progress.

Most likely, changes will be made based on that unit's experience.

Others - including military officials and defense analysts - are also watching the 3rd Division, Pike said.

"We're reading tea leaves and hanging on every word," Pike said.

The 3rd Division - and the Army as a whole - has a big task on its hands.

The 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., and the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., are next in line for the changes.

The Army, after all, has been fighting the same way for more than half a century, and it's never been known for its flexibility.

All current manuals, policies and procedures describing equipment and tactics are geared toward Cold War doctrine.

Now, they must be re-written.

"It's hard to change all of that," Pike said. "You can't just change one thing."

Transforming the 3rd ID

The 3rd Infantry Division is in the middle of a sweeping change that will bring more soldiers and helicopters to Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield. Army officials also hope the division's new look will make it a more agile fighting force while bringing more stability to soldiers' lives.

Maj. Gen. William Webster wants the new look in place by the time the division returns to Iraq, which will be sometime between Thanksgiving and February. Many details of the new organization aren't in place, but here's a look at some changes on the way:

The Soldiers

* Soldiers will be assigned to four maneuver brigades and a fifth brigade focused on aviation. Right now, there are three maneuver brigades.

* Although the new maneuver brigades will have fewer soldiers than they did under the old structure, they will have 25 percent more armor and mechanized infantry troops.

* The division will also have brigade-like units for delivering long-range fire, reconnaissance and support. Details on how those units will look have not been worked out.

The ground equipment

* The new brigades will also have a reconnaissance squadron with 31 Bradley fighting vehicles.

* There will be fewer howitzers and fewer engineering vehicles in each brigade.

The aviation equipment

* The division's Black Hawk battalion will grow to 30 helicopters from 16.

* The division will receive 12 Chinook helicopters.

* Each maneuver brigade will have 58 tanks and 58 Bradley fighting vehicles.

* There will be more armored Humvees.

* The division will have two Apache helicopter battalions with 24 Longbow choppers each. Now, the division has one Apache battalion with 18 helicopters.

* The division will receive 12 Chinook helicopters.

* Between 1,000 to 5,000 additional soldiers could be assigned to the 3rd Division.Although the new maneuver brigades will have fewer soldiers, 4,000, than they did under the old structure, they will have 25 percent more armor and mechanized infantry troops.The division will also have brigade-like units for delivering long-range fire, reconnaissance and support. Details on how those units will look have not been worked out.


Copyright 2004, Savannah Morning News