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NEWS ANALYSIS: Modular brigades prep for deployment

By Steven Field

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 19, 2004) - The concept of modularity is approaching its first true test as units across the country undergo transformation and prepare for deployments overseas.

With four modular brigades set up under the 3rd Infantry Division training and several companies reorganizing and reflagging under the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), the time is rapidly approaching when the Army will send a Unit of Execution and subordinate Brigade Combat Teams (Units of Action) into combat, testing the modular, "plug-and-play" vision inspired by transformation.

A successful deployment would provide validation for the model that will be applied to each of the ten Army divisions by 2007.

In these upcoming deployments, two BCT (UA)s from the 3rd Infantry Division will fall under the command of the 42nd Infantry Division in north central Iraq when they deploy this winter. The rest of the division is slated to deploy with a unit from the Louisiana Army National Guard to a different part of Iraq shortly after.

In the ramp-up to these deployments, the newly reorganized BCT (UA)s have gone through rotations at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.

"JRTC was our capstone exercise that culminated all the training we did since we were activated in May 2004," said Maj. Alayne Conway, spokeswoman for the 3rd Infantry Division's 4th BCT (UA).

FROM THE GROUND UP

The story of the 4th BCT is one that epitomizes the transformation philosophy. The unit had about 21 soldiers when it was activated, and in six months gained approximately 1,500 Soldiers, garnered new equipment and conducted three major training exercises. The Army took three different battalions from three different brigades with three different cultures and joined together as one team, said Conway.

The 4th BCT (UA) had to be built from the ground up. And about eight months after its formation, it will be deployed to Iraq with another BCT (UA) from the 3rd Infantry and a brigade from the Louisiana Army National Guard in one of the first modular deployments.

"In six months, we did what a normal unit can expect to do in four to five years," said Conway.

The changes mandated by transformation were especially felt among artillery Soldiers, whose battalions were integrated into all units and face new infantry-like requirements and missions as the Army changes.

Soldiers of the 4th BCT (UA) coined the term "infartillery" during their rotation at JRTC to describe their new functions. While they still had traditional artillery responsibilities, they also prepared to go into towns, do security sweeps, and deal directly with the people in the country that they operate in, jobs typically reserved for other Soldiers like infantry and civil affairs.

FORT CAMPBELL FOLLOWS SUIT

Following in the footsteps of the 3rd Infantry Division is the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky., which officially kicked off its transformation effort on Sept. 16. By March 15, the division will have reorganized into four BCT (UA)s, two aviation BCT (UA)s and a support UA.

There have already been major changes at Fort Campbell, especially with the transformation of the post's two aviation brigades - the 101st Aviation Brigade and the 159th Aviation Brigade, said Campbell spokeswoman Cathy Gramling. Currently, the 101st Brigade is strictly an attack helicopter brigade, while the 159th Brigade is purely an assault helicopter brigade.

Several of the aviation companies under the 101st and 159th have reflagged and moved around in creating a modular brigade structure, she said.

When transformation of the 101st Division is complete in mid-March 2005, both aviation brigades will be made up of an attack battalion, an assault battalion, a cavalry squadron, a general support aviation battalion, and an aviation support battalion.

TRANSFORMATION BEYOND STRYKER

The first deployment using the new modular brigade will begin only a few months after the return the Army's first Styker Brigade.

The 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Stryker Brigade Combat Team, recently returned to Fort Lewis, Wash., after a yearlong deployment in Iraq.

While the performance of the vehicle silenced critics and won the praise of its operators and senior Army leaders, commanders of units with the SBCT were quick to point out the people were the factor that made the deployment of the brigade a success.

"The Stryker Brigade is not about the vehicle, it's about the Soldiers and the non-commissioned officers and officers," said Lt. Col. Buck James, commander of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment. "We are building the next generation of leaders and preparing for the future of the Army."

MODULARITY TO GROW ARMY

Adding a fourth brigade sized element to each Army division is part of the larger plan to increase the number of Army brigades from 33 to 43 by the end of fiscal year 2007.

The 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, and the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., will transform into modular brigades this fiscal year.

The modular restructuring of the Army will help combatant commanders rapidly identify units for deployment on short notice; allow units to sustain operations with minimal or no augmentation; enhance a unit's ability to deploy; and provide greater troop readiness, according to Army officials.

 



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