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Fort Polk activates new unit of action

By Jean Dubiel

FORT POLK, La. (Army News Service, Feb. 1, 2005) -- The 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division officially activated as the Army's newest brigade combat team (unit of action) in a ceremony at Fort Polk Jan. 19.

The new brigade's activation is just one step in the complex process of transformation, officials said, taking the Army from where it was in the late 1990s to the future, objective force -- deploying with the speed of light forces and the combat power of heavy ones.

The 4th Brigade's activation is the result of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker's modularity focus area, where today's active-component maneuver brigades are being "reset" or formed into 43 Brigade Units of Action by 2007.

Brigade units of action are smaller but more lethal, and provide greater readiness -- infantry, armor, cavalry, field artillery and support units train together at all times.

Maj. Gen. Lloyd A. Austin III, commander, 10th Mountain Division (Light) and Fort Drum, N.Y., activated the brigade and subordinate battalions by officially unfurling the unit colors and handing them to respective commanders.

Col. A. Kent Schweikert assumed command of the new brigade. Schweikert arrived at Fort Polk in June and became the deputy commander and chief of staff of the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk.

Prior to his assignment at Polk, Schweikert served as the executive officer to the commander of Central Command, Joint Task Force North, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The 4th Bde has more than 3,000 total personnel. It is one of the Army's new BCT Units of Action -- highly deployable units that enhance the Army's ability to project power from the continental U.S. bases while simultaneously preparing forces for full spectrum operations.

There are three types of BCT(UA): heavy, Stryker and infantry. The 4th Brigade is an infantry BCT(UA). Each type of UA will be of standard configuration, officials said.

The brigade-based, modular system replaces the older Army model that was based on a brigade/division/corps structure. Schweikert said the old model no longer fits the Army's needs for responsive and easily deployable units.

"(The new model) allows our leadership to mix and match capabilities of the UAs to suit the situation," Schweikert said.

"Flexible options for deployment make us more responsive as a force."

The new UAs will gain improved force packaging, sustainability, battle command and situational awareness while retaining the same lethality as the larger, task-organized brigade combat teams.

Over the next six years, the Army will convert existing active and reserve-component brigade combat teams to one of the three standardized modular UA designs.

The Army will also build up to 15 additional BCT(UA)s over the next four years.

The brigade conversions will occur in conjunction with the conversion of division headquarters to the unit of employment X configuration, officials said.

Units of employment X provide the command and control capabilities previously held by divisions and corps. In the future, for a given contingency, a UEX will be designated and assigned a tailored package of UAs to conduct the mission.

Austin said the activation of the brigade was an important milestone for the division and the Army.

"This is a noteworthy day. In less than half a year we have more than doubled our combat power," said Austin.

"(The 10th Mountain Division) is transforming and growing into four self-sustaining, integrated brigade combat teams. As a result, we are becoming a more modular, lethal, combat ready force.

"Even more impressively, we are the only division in the Army undergoing transformation with units deployed in support of the war on terror."

Austin said that while the changes involved in the transformation have been "fast and furious," they are essential for the 10th Mountain Division and the Army to remain relevant and ready to meet the challenges ahead.

"By setting up these new units, the division carries on the traditions of professionalism and service to our nation that our forefathers established as we execute our missions in the days ahead," Austin said.

The 4th Brigade, 10th Mtn. Div. will be fielding new equipment in the coming weeks. Some of the higher-profile systems include:

o Long-range scout surveillance system: This is a long-range, multi-sensor system for use by the U.S. Army scout. It provides real-time capability to detect, recognize, identify and pinpoint far target locations. The system enables scouts to conduct 24-hour reconnaissance and surveillance missions while remaining outside threat acquisition and engagement ranges.

o Tactical unmanned aerial vehicle: The TUAV "Shadow" system provides a near real-time, highly accurate, sustainability capability for reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition and battle damage assessment.

o Deployable tactical exploitation system: A new system composed of analysis and communications sub-modules, which downsize intelligence capabilities to meet the tactical requirements of U.S. Army divisions and below.

o PAS-13 thermal weapon sight: An advanced infrared weapon sight. It is light enough for rifles and can be used to see in total darkness, adverse weather and battlefield smoke and dust.

(Editor's note: Jean Dubiel writes for the Guardian newspaper at Fort Polk.)

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