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Guard restructuring armor to lighter brigades

by Master Sgt. Bob Haskell

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Army News Service, Sept. 9, 2002) -- Some armor brigades in the National Guard will be transformed into lighter, more mobile outfits, Secretary of the Army Thomas White told National Guard leaders Sept. 8.

White explained the broad scope of the new "Army National Guard Restructuring Initiative" to the 1,800 delegates in Long Beach, Calif., during the National Guard Association of the United States' 124th annual conference.

The restructured units will remain fully capable of conducting combat operations wherever they are needed and will not be reclassified as support elements, the Army's civilian leader insisted. They will also be more beneficial to governors for state active duty, he said.

These units will be "first and foremost war-fighting formations that are prepared for the full spectrum of operations that range from major combat to our duty here in the homeland," he explained. "We are not walking away from our current mission set. We're simply better preparing our Army for the future, and you, the Guard, are a critical part of that future."

Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz, director of the Army National Guard, has endorsed that program.

"We're talking about the Guard turning in tanks. I'm not worried about it. The tanks we're turning in wouldn't go to war anyway," Schultz told Army Guard leaders Sept. 9. "I just want you to know that the Army Guard will be part of the transformation. I would have us accelerate some of the new ideas that the secretary outlined."

The restructuring will reduce the Army Guard's tracked combat vehicle fleet by about a third, approximately 2,400 vehicles, with commensurate savings in maintenance and other costs, White said.

The restructuring process will begin in 2008 and should be completed by 2012, he projected.

Four brigades will be affected, according to Army Guard officials familiar with the plan. They said armor units with Cold War-era equipment will be turned into mobile infantry units with enough light vehicles, such as HUMVEES, to carry them to the action.

The restructuring will introduce two new types of organizations - mobile light brigades and multi-functional divisions - to the force structure, White said.

The mobile light brigades will be part of the multi-functional divisions, one official explained. The multi-functional divisions will be designed to perform both warfighting missions and homeland security.

The lighter, more mobile units will be more beneficial to governors who White said "have become more and more concerned about the security of critical infrastructure over the past year" since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"Clearly, the threats to our infrastructure (such as bridges and power plants) are not going to go away anytime soon," he said.

White said it is too early to know which specific brigades would be changed from heavy to light units, but he indicated it would be the ones with older equipment that would be among the last to be mobilized for war.

The restructuring will not affect the Pennsylvania National Guard's 56th Mechanized Brigade that will be transformed into one of the six Stryker brigades with wheeled armored vehicles. Nor will it affect the Guard's 15 enhanced separate brigades, officials said.

The restructuring program is not a response to the terrorist attacks, said one Guard official who explained "we were talking about homeland security requirements long before 9-11. Sept. 11 just put an exclamation mark on it. It speeded things up."

"The National Guard has been in the homeland defense business since 1636," said Maj. Gen. Raymond Rees, acting chief of the National Guard Bureau.

"These multi-purpose brigades and divisions would be of much more use, not only to war-fighting commanders because we can get them to the war-fight quicker, but, I think, for governors and for peacetime deployments under state control," White said.

Change, he observed, is inevitable. "Even as the armed forces fight the present war against terrorism, we are also transforming to meet the challenges of future wars," White told the conference. "This should come as no surprise to you because the history of the Guard is literally a history of transformation."

The Militia Act of 1903 began transforming more than 1,000 local units into the modern National Guard, he pointed out, and the Army Guard took part in the Army's division redesign study in 1996 that advocated changing some combat units into support elements.

Now some of the Guard's heavy armor units need to be changed into more mobile combat units to support the new defense strategy summed up by the phrase "Four-Two-One." That requires the Army to deploy to four areas at the same time, to swiftly defeat adversaries in two of those areas, and to decisively defeat an enemy in one of them.

"Transformation is an imperative, not an option," White stressed. "I know I can count on the Guard to deliver its part."

The Army secretary praised the Guard as being "the bedrock of our Army" for well over 300 years and pledged to work closely with the National Guard Bureau and the states' adjutants general to get this transformation right.

"Our current relationship is one of trust and confidence, and our very future depends on sustaining that," White said. "I have no intent of losing the strong working relationship that we have developed over the years."



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