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Chapter 3

Theater Development

Initially, the Central Command (CENTCOM) CINC and staff determined that Operation Desert Shield was to be sustained in the theater by the premise of "minimum essential" support from troop units and maximum support from HN and contracting sources. The 20th Engineer Brigade's (Corps) (Airborne) commander initially served as the theater engineer, in addition to commanding engineer support to the forward fight. Fortunately, the Iraqi advance halted at the Saudi border, otherwise the XVIII Airborne Corps engineer commander would have been focused on the close fight vice the mission he assumed to provide theater troop bed down and logistic base-construction support.
The CINC made decisions not to deploy theater-engineer construction units, initially, because of their large strategic lift requirements and the prevailing attitude within the CENTCOM and Third US Army leadership (who believed that support facilities, and by inference engineers were not critical to Army operations). During the initial stages of Operation Desert Shield, it became quickly apparent that HNS and contracting would not be able to handle the massive amount of construction needed to logistically sustain and move forces in theater. The 20th Brigade, the USACE's Middle East Area Project Office (MEAPO), and the Third US Army's engineer staffs were not adequately staffed to control increasing theater-engineer requirements. The 416th ENCOM was mobilized and deployed to serve as the theater engineer.
 Major General (MG) Robert B. Flowers


Today's force-projection Army creates challenges in all theaters (developed and underdeveloped). This includes those—

  • With a permanent forward presence.
  • With a limited presence (perhaps through training exercises).
  • With no presence at all before the contingency.

The above perspective is not taken from obscure history; it is taken from recent experience that has shaped the way we approach contingency responses. Engineer doctrine as expressed in this manual, FM 5-100, and others is a reflection of lessons learned. Theater development occurs as appropriate organizations deploy to meet the needs of the mission without creating undue risk to the soldiers or the mission.

The foundations of basic theater development come from theory, history, and experience. The Army's requirement to project ground forces to anywhere in the world shaped current engineer concepts for the patterns of operations. From a strategic perspective, the patterns of conflict that we have experienced since about 1989 will likely continue into the 21st century. We expect to be involved—normally as part of a multinational force—in large-scale combat contingencies such as the Persian Gulf Conflict, 1990 to 1991; foreign humanitarian assistance efforts such as Operation Sea Angel in Bangladesh, 1991; peace operations such as those in Bosnia and Haiti; and various other types of operations requiring US military engineer capability.

The theater-development principles are incremental deployment, split-based operations, and mobilization of the Reserve Components (RC). Engineer units must be part of the initial or early deploying forces that enter the AOs and the last to leave the contingency area. Engineers will operate dispersed over the extended battlespace. They will be required to operate at all levels from tactical to strategic. Engineers rely on split-based operations to obtain current technical data or mission planning and execution from CONUS- and other COMMZ-based engineer organizations. Access to and involvement of the RC engineer units and soldiers will be essential whenever division formations deploy for extended periods. With about three-quarters of the engineer force in the RC, highly capable, rapidly deployable RC engineer units must be mobilized and inserted early in the time-phased force-deployment list.


The force-projection Army's first major challenge in a crisis response is mobilizing and deploying into the theater. This is particularly true for engineers whose force structure is largely made up from the RC forces. Also factored into the mobilization process is the availability of space on the military strategic sea lift and airlift and the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF).

Experience shows that the incremental deployment of individual engineer units meets the needs within the AOR with appropriate expertise and readiness from within the force-projection Army. This modular building of the theater support acknowledges the profound competition for available lift capabilities. The immediate needs within the AOR vary with each contingency operation. The functions that the theater HQ provides will be required in the early stages of any contingency operation. However, large C2 organizations will not be needed entirely within the first 15 days of any contingency operation.

Deploying the well-trained, identifiable increments of the theater command early provides its expertise and oversight from the beginning of operations. Such a deployment strategy allows the tactical commander to plan and remain focused on his mission. Likewise, incremental deployment minimizes the footprint of theater command units when sea-lift and airlift capabilities are in great demand and troop-support capabilities within the AOR are limited. As the theater matures, follow-on lift capabilities will be allocated to larger increments of the theater's assets, increasing their capabilities in theater. This allows sea-lift and airlift capabilities to be appropriately allocated to the proper forces throughout theater development.

The two ENCOMs in the Army's force structure have early deploying cells. The cells' makeup differs between the two commands; however, there are common characteristics in nearly all early deploying incremental cells.

The cells—

  • Have a well-defined structure versus an ad hoc organization. (Derivative unit-identification codes (UICs) aid in the time-phased force-deployment-data (TPFDD) development and access during contingencies.)
  • Are made up of active, Active Guard Reserve (AGR), and M-day soldiers.
  • Are represented by several (but not all) staff elements of the main command post (CP).
  • Require significant communications assets to meet mission demands within the AOR in the absence of the main CP, yet leverage the resources of the main CP.
  • Have a full-time forward element that is the nucleus (most familiar with the AOR, the agencies involved in the crisis action, and the circumstances and responses that led to the current crisis).
  • Conduct specific collective team training during peacetime exercises with early deploying cells from other MSCs.

These common characteristics, regardless of the specific makeup of the derivative cell, equip it to meet the initial needs within the theater. Those initial needs are predominantly centered on the RSO&I of the projected force. As the theater increases both in physical terrain (which US forces occupy or operate within) and in the number and the makeup of forces, the demands for the theater functions also escalate. At some point, the theater requirements will surpass the capabilities of this initial cell. Consequently, among the implied tasks for these derivative elements is to assess the AOR needs and make recommendations on the makeup and timing of the follow-on flow to meet the engineer-function needs successfully. This includes recommendations for the subsequent modular building of the theater-engineer C2 package.

The next package may be the entire ENCOM or, more likely, a significant element that provides—

  • Greater in-theater capabilities.
  • Additional services.
  • Increased C2 for the operational structure assembling within the AOR.
  • More capability to operate at multiple locations within the AOR.

Lift constraints are still anticipated at the timing of this second increment; however, mission demands will exceed the capabilities of the first deployed package, and an increased theater presence will be required. The number and deployment sequencing of follow-on incremental "modules" is METT-TC driven. However, the governing principle is to achieve an adequate capability-based theater structure within the limits of lift capabilities and the theater footprint.

Before executing incremental deployment, the availability of materials within the AOR must be considered. Class IV is fundamental to construction missions. In general terms, construction materials are available everywhere. Developed theaters typically have more resources within the country from which to draw. Theaters with a permanent presence are also more likely to have at least some initial stocks pre-positioned within the theater to meet the initial needs. However, from a contingency perspective, the right Class IV or the needed quantities or quality of Class IV may not be locally available. In the crisis planning phase, the mission analysis should address the local and regional availability of the Class IV that is needed to meet mission requirements.

Local sources of gravel and sand need to be identified. The HN's known requirements for construction materials need to be considered (if US demands for construction materials exceed supply, the local economy may experience hyperinflation). Materials procured from other countries in the region may be delivered using regional transportation assets. Class IV procured in CONUS for overseas delivery will compete for space on US military sea lift, which may be scarce. Therefore, engineer planners must consider and plan for acquiring and delivering the necessary construction materials from sources within or as close to the AOR as possible. This will save on costs and assure delivery to meet project time tables.


Split-based operations are associated with both inter- and intratheater operations from multiple locations. Deploying the derivative elements places theater assets into the AOR early to establish the theater backbone and initiate theater missions. Because the numbers are purposely held small, these derivative elements have moderate capabilities. Intertheater split-based operations overcome these shortfalls by leveraging the knowledge and the production base of the CONUS HQ, thereby magnifying the support within the AOR. For example, the Army engineer cell in theater defines engineer missions in concert with the commander's scheme of maneuver or support. By using tele-presence engineering (tele-engineering), the engineer on the ground can access detailed engineer expertise and technical advice from a variety of CONUS/outside continental US (OCONUS) sources to resolve engineering missions that are outside the scope of the in-theater engineers' capabilities. These sources can—

  • Assist with construction design and drawings that exceed the in-theater staff's capabilities.
  • Research alternate solutions and propose COAs to—
  • — Meet mission needs.

    — Locate viable equipment and material sources outside the immediate AOR without the constraints or the limitations of in-theater communications networks.

    — Access CONUS-based suppliers.

    — Coordinate with deploying units before they depart CONUS.

  • Assist in planning while the smaller in-county element is engaged in execution.

The essence of intertheater split-based operations is an increased value-added support with a relatively low cost in lift capabilities and the footprint within the AOR. If the crux of intertheater split-based operations is leveraged support, then the maxim for success is adequate communications with the CONUS support base to transmit voice and data. Communications is key to all split-based operations but particularly crucial when the theater cells are small.

The concept of intratheater split-based operations is age-old and rooted in our doctrinal approach regardless of the battlespace function. Maneuver elements, for example, have multiple CPs to control ongoing operations. The following are titles for the different C2 nodes that have unique capabilities and focus:

  • Jump tactical operations center (TOC).
  • Tactical CP.
  • Main CP.
  • Rear CP.

The C2 structure of the engineers mirrors a number of these control headquarters (HQ), enabling the engineer to best support the operation through collocation with the supported HQ elements. As the theater matures and the numbers of these separate command nodes expand, so do the requirements for the senior engineer HQ to operate multiple CPs. The ENCOM will operate intratheater split-based operations with the ASCC's rear, main, and forward HQ CPs to support rear, close, and deep operations.


As stated previously, about three-quarters of the engineer-force structure is RC forces; some specialty units are only among the RC. For example, the ENCOMs and theater-engineer brigades participate only through accessing the RC. This is not unique to these HQ or engineers; mobilizing the RC is universally understood and a common practice for any operation. In the last decade, RC forces have participated in every contingency response, such as—

  • Operations Desert Shield/Storm.
  • Restore and Continued Hope.
  • Uphold Democracy.
  • Joint Endeavor.

As a result, a Presidential Selective Reserve Call-Up (PSRC) is included in standing OPLANs as a necessary assumption and condition for success.

Inherent to intertheater split-based operations is the requirement for partial or full mobilization of HQ commands for duty at the home station. The subtle distinction between mobilization and deployment is often missed. However, it is critical to mobilize a sufficient home-station force to support the deployed members of the HQ for split-based operations.

CONUS-based support requirements are substantial in support of the initial deploying cells. Without partial mobilization of the RC HQ at the home station, that support cannot be given. A significant portion of these RC units' full-time support staff (either active duty or AGR soldiers assigned in support of full-time, day-to-day unit operations) make up the initial deployment cell. The requirements to backfill their missions and to increase the stay-behind staff to provide responsive, thorough, and competent replies to AOR requests cannot be overstated. This multidisciplined HQ element (remaining at the home station)—

  • Provides engineer expertise and design.
  • Researches and solves problems.
  • Increases the planning capability that directly supports the soldiers in the AOR.
  • Prepares or assists engineer units preparing to deploy.
  • Prepares to deploy itself.

An alternative to mobilizing units would be to authorize temporary tours of active duty (TTAD) for volunteers who would perform this crucial support to missions in the AOR from the home station. The drawback to this alternative is the availability of the right people in the right numbers to accomplish the mission. The RC soldiers may be willing to serve, however; without mobilization, they may be unable to disengage from civilian employment commitments.

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