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Fort Stewart to increase its deploying units by 66 percent

Army News Service

Release Date: 1/20/2004

By Sgt. 1st Class Marcia Triggs

(Editor's note: This is the second in a series of articles on Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker's focus areas. This one discusses "Modularity.")

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Jan. 20, 2004) - "It's like breaking China," said the commanding general who has proposed to make his division larger, diversify his brigades and turn all his Soldiers into riflemen.

Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga., seized Baghdad and helped in the stabilization of Fallujah. They know what tactics work against an unconventional enemy, and what vulnerabilities make American troops targets.

Their task now is to turn their three brigades into five rapidly deployable "brigade units of action" that are able to plug into any division and independently fight a high intensity conflict.

"The chief told me that he wants five maneuver brigades ... to respond to all the needs of combatant commanders when a crisis occurs, and he said that he wants it to happen ASAP," said Maj. Gen. William Webster, 3rd Inf. Div. commanding general, referring to instructions given to him by the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker.

Part of Schoomaker's instruction was to see if the reorganization could take place using existing resources within the division. However, the proposal on the table now would cause the division to get larger by about 2,000 to 3,000 troops, said Webster. The brigade numbers would stay the same, but combat troops would decrease by about 10 to 15 percent, he added.

Each brigade unit of action will have one fewer company-size element and less artillerymen, Webster said. However, it will have more military policemen, better command and control assets to talk to each other over long distances, and more certified troops to call in close air support, he added.

The transformation of the mechanized division will require more than requesting more troops and equipment; the Soldiers are in for some tumultuous times because they are going to have to break precious ways the Army used to do business to create a new organization.

"Soldiers don't mind breaking things," Webster said, "but in the beginning it will be difficult because there will be some frustration and confusion. It's not something that they can't do, but it will be a big challenge.

"They will need to get their equipment combat ready again. Junior leaders will have to learn a number of new tasks and then retrain a lot of new Soldiers. There will be engineers, medics, artillerymen and a host of other Soldiers who will be assigned to a brigade commander who is not accustomed to taking care of Soldiers with their job specialties."

Change has begun, and one of the first lessons learned from Iraq that is being implemented into the reorganization is making sure that every Soldier is comfortable being a Soldier first, Webster said. Soldiers must be confident and competent with their own weapons and be able to pick up their buddies' weapons, he added.

There is a program in place now were Soldiers will be shooting a lot more ammunition and using a lot more simulators than before, Webster said. Everyone from the journalists and the mechanics to the brigade commander will have the same level of confidence along with being able to live and defend themselves in the field from the front to the rear," he added.

"The enemy is learning from us," Webster said, "and they know that not all of our vehicles are armed and that not all of our Humvees are armored, and they're looking for vulnerabilities to strike with explosive devises and rocket-propelled grenades.

"So we want our Soldiers and their vehicles to exude a fearless confidence that would make the enemy think twice before attacking a convoy or command post."

Webster is working with the Army staff to acquire more machine guns and grenade launchers to put on vehicles, so on the battlefield there will be more crew-served weapons to attack or defend.

While in Baghdad the division had to secure high value assets and set up numerous checkpoints to prevent terrorist attacks. Security missions alone started to absorb Soldiers and equipment all over the city. Webster's goal is to train more Soldiers to fight, so that combat Soldiers don't have to be used to secure a service support unit.

Besides changes to training tasks, other challenges at the division level will be overcoming the chaos that will occur when every unit identification code is affected. UICs are alphanumerical codes that help supplies flow to units. It's a system that allows personnel actions to occur, training readiness to be recorded and money to be budgeted.

"We are going to perform a very complex process of moving property from one UIC to another," Webster said. "I predict that some parts we order for one company will show up in another company. We're just going to have to make sure that things don't go awry."

In order to make sure that this massive restructuring project meets the Army chief's guidelines, a division staff was created. Lt. Col Eric Wesley is the chief of Reorganization, G7, and he served as the executive officer for the division's 2nd brigade combat team during the push into Baghdad.

"We have a near-term mission," Wesley said, "which is to plan and then develop a course of action to increase our deployable entities and ensure that the division doesn't have to deploy every time a brigade-size element does.

"In the meantime, we must remain combat ready. We don't have the luxury of conducting tests, standing down a unit for an extended period of time and experimenting."

This is not a 3rd Inf. Div. initiative, Wesley iterated. This is an Army initiative, and Training and Doctrine Command has the long-term mission, he said.

TRADOC was given the responsibility of focusing on Modularity, which is one of Schoomaker's 16 focus areas, Webster said. Modularity would give smaller units a degree of flexibility and more power. The 3rd Inf. Div.'s role is more immediate, but will keep TRADOC informed to help them with their long-term Armywide reorganization plans, he said.

Previsously, whenever there was a change to be made in the Army it would be handed to TRADOC to do an analysis and within a few years come up with and execute a plan, Wesley said. Now both organizations have parallel guidance.

Reorganize, train, tweak some more and go back and train some more until it's time to deploy again, is the direction Webster has from Schoomaker. The first newly formed brigade unit of action will be trained at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin Calif., in March.

The first three brigades will be fairly easy to reorganize, but standing up the last two will take some time because more people and equipment are needed to make them whole, Webster added.

The 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky., commanded by Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, has the mission of reorganizing next. The 101st Abn. Div. has officially begun to redeploy their more than 18,000 troops after serving in peration Iraqi Freedom.

"What I have initiated to do for (Major) General Petraeus is to let him know what courses of action didn't work for us and what concepts caused the Army staff some difficulties," Webster said. "We will offer them anything that will help them start at a level further down the road than we started."

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