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Graphic - Center for Army Lessons Learned

On Point

The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom

Chapter 1


The Army's Continuing Evolution

In this Chapter:

It was a JANUS war - it was the trailing edge of industrial-age warfare and the leading edge of knowledge-based, information-age warfare. Some of the old continued, and some of the new emerged.

General Frederick M. Franks, Jr.
Commanding General,
US Army Training and Doctrine Command 1

The history of the US Army experience during the 1990s is the history of adaptation to new threats and challenges within an ambiguous, changing global security environment. It is a chronology of how the Army would conceive of and conduct itself in future wars. The Army's odyssey through the 11 years from the close of DESERT STORM in 1991 to the close of decisive combat operations in ENDURING FREEDOM in 2002 is remarkable and a testament to a traditional institution's commitment to deliberate, introspective change. In some cases, change came because the Army anticipated requirements, while in other cases the Army adapted to conditions it had not anticipated. Finally, the Army had not completed transformation by Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF). The Army that went to war in March 2003 included modernized forces well on the way toward transformation and forces still organized and designed for the Cold War. The two Gulf Wars are bookends to an amazing, compelling, and frequently painful era of transition and growth.

In retrospect, this era can be loosely divided into three periods, denoted by gradual transitions in understanding and focus. The periods are: the immediate postwar euphoria following the end of the Cold War and DESERT STORM; the extended debate on how the Army should respond to an evolving and unfamiliar security environment; and finally, the decision and efforts to "transform" to a "Future Force" capable of operating within that rapidly changing environment. These changes occurred against a backdrop of accelerated development of joint doctrine and the maturation of joint training led by US Atlantic Command (ACOM), which later became Joint Forces Command (JFCOM). These three periods define the Army's intellectual, physical, and moral evolution as it transitioned from its Cold War posture to the force that fought and won in OIF. Of course, although divided into periods for logical reasons, the reality was constant and continuous change.

The era is notable in how, following an apparently sweeping victory, the institutional Army demonstrated a remarkable willingness to reexamine itself critically. The result was an often- winding path of evolution rather than revolution. While officers, soldiers, and civilians clearly did the hard, typically unappreciated "nug work" to make the evolution a reality, this chapter of the Army's story focuses on the general officers who led the Army's institutional engines of change. As the Army's senior leaders, these general officers were dedicated both to the Army's long-term survival and relevance for the nation. They provided the vision, direction, and "horsepower" to push against considerable inertia - and some outright resistance - from soldiers in the field.

The Army took this path in parallel with the joint community. Moreover, this effort ensued while the Army reacted to a complex and challenging domestic and international environment. Tracing this evolution is critical to appreciating how the victorious Army of 2003 is different from the victorious Army of 1991. What follows is a discussion of the US Army's growth, learning, and transformation from the `certain victory' in Operation DESERT STORM (ODS) through the end of major combat operations in OIF and the transition into peace support operations - a transition that continues even today.

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Figure 1. Regional Orientation of Iraq
Before and After the "Storm"

The success of the United States-led coalition against Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 in retrospect seemed a certain victory. Strategically, the conditions of war that brought the Gulf War coalition together and carried through the conflict were certain - the unprovoked violation of Kuwaiti sovereignty provided textbook justification for collective action. The threat to regional stability, the global economy, and environmental security, as well as Saddam's appetite for Kuwaiti and Saudi oil fields, only solidified the clear and present danger of the moment. The result was an unambiguous charter for staunch, swift, and severe collective action against Iraq.

The operational and tactical nature of DESERT STORM was equally certain. The battles and engagements of the first Gulf War were set-piece battles, reflective of World War II European combat. The US Army's AirLand Battle-tailored conventional force and its coalition partners met the fourth-largest 20th-century army in large-scale, open-quarter combat supported from above by air forces who found the air space largely uncontested. The resulting victory was so sweeping and complete as to be almost breathtaking in its nature. In short, the victory seemed to validate the Army's Cold War doctrine, equipment, training, and organization.

However, DESERT STORM, like all wars, proved Janus-like: some aspects were familiar, while others hinted at the nature of future combat. Precision munitions and the Global Positioning System (GPS) suggested that technology, and in particular, information technology, would fundamentally affect the course of future combat operations. As Alvin and Heidi Toffler argued, DESERT STORM contained the seeds of "Third Wave" warfare, in which information technology would dominate. 2 The war suggested elements of future warfare while validating service investments in high-technology systems such as precision munitions and the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. Yet, some argued that DESERT STORM would be the last of the symmetrical, large-machine wars.

At the moral and psychological levels, Operation DESERT STORM clearly demonstrated that the services could decisively fight and win the nation's wars. The speed with which the armed forces ejected the Iraqis effectively erased the painful memories of North Vietnamese tanks trundling about on the lawn of the South Vietnamese presidential palace or the charred corpses of the failed hostage rescue attempt at Desert 1 in the Iranian desert. DESERT STORM was, in some ways, a catharsis for both the nation and its armed forces.

But the path from Vietnam to DESERT STORM did not present the Army with an easy journey toward change and adaptation. Although all of the services bore the burden of Vietnam, the weight rested most heavily on the US Army. The Army returned from Vietnam with its confidence shaken and wanting to put the experience behind it. But as a profession, the Army did not brood on that failure or attempt to excuse itself. Rather, a core group of officers quickly sought to learn from the experience. Even before the tanks rolled in front of the Vietnamese presidential palace, the "Big A" Army had shifted back to NATO and the defense of West Germany with conventional combat operations.

The Army found little comfort in Europe. The Soviets, or at least their weapons and tactics, seemed ascendant. The Egyptian army's successful use of Soviet gear and tactics in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war boded ill for the defense of Europe. Israel, after its great victory in 1967, seemed unbeatable - yet they nearly lost the Yom Kippur War five years later. Arguably, the Israelis' arrogance of victory prevented them from critically learning from the 1967 war. As a result, they were fundamentally surprised - tactically, operationally, and psychologically. Worse still, the Arab-Israeli War seemed to validate the Soviet approach to war, causing a collective chill in the US Army and Air Force.

Accordingly, both turned their energy to considering how to counter the apparent advantages that Soviet weapons and tactics seemed to have conferred on the Arabs and Egyptians specifically. The results were impressive. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Army's leadership wrought changes in doctrine, training, materiel development, and acquisition that amounted to a renaissance of the force. At the same time, the Air Force's Tactical Air Command aggressively sought the means to counter the air defense threat apparent in the Yom Kippur War.

DESERT STORM illustrated both the effectiveness of the Army's effort to reform itself in the 1980s and the appearance of technologies that might redefine the nature of war. The Army took the fight to the Iraqis armed with its "big five" weapon systems: the M-1 Abrams tank, M-2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, the Multiple Launch Rocket System, the Patriot Air Defense Missile System, and the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. These systems were originally fielded to meet the Warsaw Pact, using the AirLand Battle doctrine that was rehearsed in hundreds of bloodless fights at the National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, California. Indeed, many soldiers returning in 1991 observed that the 32nd Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment, the NTC Opposing Force (OPFOR), proved a far tougher foe than the Iraqi Republican Guard. Following the 7 March 1991 cease-fire, the Army basked in the warm glow of success and public accolades. However, the "big five" Army that had just won DESERT STORM would be forced to weather a new and gathering storm with a myriad of challenges - foreign and domestic, defense and security based, political, and economic. The character of emerging threats and potential future fights did not neatly match the Army's just-proved capabilities. While digesting this dilemma, the Army focused on maintaining a capable and effective force in the face of the downsizing trends of the 1990s that, as General Gordon R. Sullivan, the 32nd chief of staff of the Army (CSA), put it, required nothing less than "transformation" of the Army. 3

The 1990s: Describing the World and Redefining the Future Army

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From the early hours of 20 March to 1 May 2003, when President George W. Bush declared the end of major combat operations, soldiers, in concert with sailors, marines, airmen, coast guardsmen, and foreign military brothers and sisters in arms, fought what is already being recognized as the first information-age war. The previous 12 years of debate - theoretical, doctrinal, and political - that tried to predict the best way ahead had been tested in the battles of OIF. The following section is the story of the Army's sometimes-painful journey of learning, debating, changing, and growing in that chaotic and challenging dozen-year period.

The Domestic and International Environment

Defining and achieving the transformation that General Sullivan espoused became the central purpose of the institutional Army throughout the 1990s. The question was how best to adapt - whether to "leap ahead" technologically to a distinctively new pathway of force modernization, or gradually move ahead in an incremental manner involving a recapitalization of the big five-based legacy system. The question had to be answered not only from the Army's point of view, but from a joint perspective as well. The Army found its answers in testing and analysis and eventually demonstrated the results on the battlefield in OIF.

The domestic and international environment played a key role in shaping - both positively and negatively - this ongoing debate. Internationally, the world was breaking free of the relatively rigid structures of the Cold War era, presenting a dizzying array of security challenges to the nation and the armed forces. US engagement in the fields and cities of Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, the Balkans, Central and South America, the Philippines, and East Timor had a direct and lasting impact on how the Army viewed itself: its role, its missions, and required capabilities. The domestic political landscape in the immediate aftermath of the first Gulf War was equally challenging and reflected the typical American postwar reaction. The nation expected a lasting peace following the back-to-back defeat of its old Cold War nemesis and the new Iraqi threat. Moreover, Americans eagerly anticipated a "peace dividend" that could be applied to pressing domestic needs as the economy emerged from recession. Indeed, given the overwhelming military success, America's leaders and citizens considered the armed forces to be overly capable for the perceived future security environment.

The absence of any clear threat encouraged the perception that it was prudent to reduce the armed forces. Strategic ambiguity made it difficult for decision makers and the citizenry to reach a consensus on just what the military requirements should be. Amid this ambiguous political-military environment, the defense budget became the game ball of competing partisan-political and service rivalries and a lucrative resource to support domestic initiatives. The resulting policies placed enormous pressures on America's military in general, and the US Army in particular, to man, equip, train, field, and sustain an effective force in a new security environment.

Thus, budget constraints forced the military to balance its efforts between maintaining readiness and fielding new capabilities to deal with the growing array of unknown, but suspected, threats. These conditions compelled the Army to man, equip, and train a military force capable of providing for the common defense, but "on the cheap." The net result was a series of relatively inexpensive investments in doctrine development, experimentation, and certain key technologies that vastly improved capabilities without a wholesale overhaul of the big-five force. In doing so, the Army, along with its sister services, took on the task of doing much more with much less - to adapt and innovate in an environment of relatively scarce resources not experienced since the days of Generals George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower in the hiatus between world wars.

Managing Downsizing and Setting the Stage for Transformation

Immediately following the 1991 victory, Sullivan, then the vice CSA, put things in perspective for the Third Army staff when he noted, "The American people expect only one thing from us: That we will win. What you have done is no more than they expect. You have won." 4 But as Sullivan knew very well, the Army would need to change significantly to remain relevant in the coming years. Moreover, he understood that coming fiscal and resource constraints would affect the pace and scope of that change.

First and foremost, the demobilization of the Cold War Army that had already begun with the 4th Infantry Division (ID), 5th ID, 9th ID, and the 2nd Armored Division (AD) would pick up speed. As it turned out, 3rd AD returned to Germany in the summer of 1991 and cased colors in the spring of 1992, joining the 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment (ACR), 8th ID, and VII Corps among the deactivated units in Germany. The pace of demobilization accelerated so that by the summer of 1993, the Army had drawn down its end strength from 786,000 to 500,000 soldiers.

But demobilizing the Cold War Army was not the only impetus for change. Sullivan, who succeeded Carl E. Vuono as CSA in 1991, perceived an absolute requirement to change fundamentally how the Army organized, equipped, trained, and employed units to reflect emerging trends. Sullivan spoke of "change and continuity" as the hallmarks of his tenure as CSA. He envisioned effecting change where it seemed warranted, while preserving the enduring qualities and values of the Army. Simply put, the Army needed to change from focusing on the Soviets to focusing on the emerging global threats. He believed the Army must anticipate change in the operational environment and incorporate the lessons learned in Panama and DESERT STORM.

Moving rapidly to establish momentum for change, Sullivan assigned General Frederick M. Franks, Jr. as commanding general of TRADOC in the summer of 1991. Both Sullivan and Franks grew up as commanders during the Army's post-Vietnam renaissance. Generals Creighton Abrams, William Depuy, and Donn Starry had led that effort. Sullivan and Franks understood that, as in the post-Vietnam era, the national strategy must inform and drive doctrine, combat development, and training. In his guidance to Franks upon his assumption of command, Sullivan specified, "You will be informing us and, in turn, teaching us how to think about war in this proclaimed `New World Order,' Goldwater-Nichols era in which we are living. What we think about doctrine, organizations, equipment, and training in the future must be the result of a vigorous and informed discussion amongst seasoned professionals." 5

Both also understood the Army's essentially conservative nature and the need for soldiers to embrace their vision of the future for any change to take root. This was particularly important in the absence of a shock to the Army system similar to the Israelis' shock of the Yom Kippur War. Rather, they had to build momentum against the self-satisfied inertia of the post-DESERT STORM Army. To achieve this, they developed several initiatives in parallel:

At the Department of the Army level, Sullivan organized and funded the Louisiana Army Maneuvers Task Force (LAM-TF) as the "general headquarters" tool for experimentation. 6 LAM- TF, led by a young up-and-coming brigadier general named Tommy Franks, "stood up" in the spring of 1992 at Fort Monroe, collocated with TRADOC. LAM-TF's role included both experimentation and general "pot stirring" to promote thinking about the future and leading change.

Having served as executive to former TRADOC commander Starry, General Fred Franks knew TRADOC and understood how it functioned. He used a variety of venues to define and divine early insights into future challenges. These venues included conferences on DESERT STORM and on the apparent changes to warfare suggested in that war, consulting experts and futurists, assigning talented officers the responsibility to consider apparent trends in warfare, and researching how the US and other armies experimented and considered the future. He concluded that there were five key areas in which the Army needed to consider change:

  • Early or forced entry (since the Army would no longer be forward based in the most likely theater of operations).
  • Mounted and dismounted maneuver.
  • Fires across the depth of the battlespace.
  • Battle command.
  • Combat service support.

Franks disbanded the entrenched combat development offices that were "stovepiped" organizations serving their parent branches and replaced them with battle labs whose function was to experiment to anticipate changes concerning these ideas or domains. The battle labs deliberately crossed the traditional Army branch boundaries, breaking the previous vertical development patterns and forcing more holistic and innovative solutions.

To this mix, Sullivan and Franks resolved to effect changes to doctrine and unit training. Changing doctrine began with rewriting Field Manual (FM) 100-5, Operations, the Army's baseline doctrinal manual. The Army's combat training centers: the NTC, Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) (then at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas), and the Combat Maneuver Training Center (CMTC) at Hohenfels, Germany, each began to consider how to adjust training to anticipate the future. These initiatives, and the twin themes of change and continuity, started the Army down the path that ultimately led it to the palaces of Baghdad and to an Army very different from the one that returned from Kuwait in 1991. Adapting AirLand Battle to Full-Spectrum Operations

The Army redeployed from the sands of Kuwait confident in AirLand Battle as a successful and effective doctrine. However, as the applause died down and the leadership looked toward the future, it was clear that the doctrine would need to change to meet a new reality. Importantly, the Army did not merely react; it anticipated change. Generals Sullivan and Franks moved rapidly to deliver on their vision of change along three axes: doctrine, organization and training, and materiel. Developing the Doctrinal Foundation for Change

Even before DESERT STORM, then-CSA Vuono and his TRADOC commander, General John W. Foss, began to change the way the Army viewed warfare and doctrinal development. Both had seen the ground shifting as the Soviet Union moved from outright confrontation to "openness" and imminent collapse. The nature of future US commitments would change correspondingly. Accordingly, in 1990, Foss, in coordination with the Air Force Tactical Air Command, began the process of revising FM 100-5. 7 FM 100-5 would move from an operational-level manual to one that was firmly grounded in tying military operations to strategic considerations. The new doctrine was attempting to look 15 years ahead. That span allowed time to develop solutions across TRADOC's domains - doctrine, organizations, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, and facilities (DOTMLPF). As part of that effort, Foss concluded the Army would be involved in more than combat operations as the threat and conditions changed. 8

General Franks' purpose for revising the doctrine stemmed from his conviction that the "glimmerings" of fundamental changes in the nature of warfare must be accounted for across the domains of DOTMLPF. Like General Sullivan, he perceived the need for transformation. Franks believed the Army would require changes across DOTMLPF to avoid arriving at merely a smaller version of the Cold War Army. Both Sullivan and Franks intended that the new FM 100-5 would serve as the intellectual "engine of change," while the newly formed battle labs conducted experiments with promising technologies and concepts and the LAM-TF invested effort and dollars in cutting-edge technologies. In short, both generals perceived the need to transform. Moreover, they believed that the Army would need to lead change not only internally, but within the joint community as well. What followed was a coordinated and effort to build on the successes of DESERT STORM, particularly those characterized as the nascent beginnings of information-enabled warfare.

The Army published FM 100-5 in June 1993. As promised, the new operations manual started to shift the focus from the operational level to the strategic level; or rather, it recast the doctrine in the strategic and joint context. The manual also addressed "the shift to stronger joint operations prompted by the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986." 9 It did so by discreetly introducing the concepts of joint capabilities and missions and devoting chapters to joint operations and combined operations. The manual also addressed force projection and battle command as new topics.

Most important, the manual introduced and described "full-dimensional operations." The term captured the concept of joint and combined operations along a spectrum of conflict, perhaps at several points on the spectrum at once. To deal with the fundamentally changed problem of fighting and moving up and down the spectrum of conflict, the manual included an entire chapter devoted to operations other than war.

Figure 2. Spectrum of Military Operations ("Full-Spectrum Operations")

Additionally, the authors, led by Franks, chose operationally focused historical vignettes to illustrate joint and combined integration, including the Inchon Landing, Operation JUST CAUSE, and the Battle of Yorktown. Convinced of the importance of joint and combined integration, Franks led the TRADOC staff on a staff ride that reviewed the connections between the French defeat of the British off of the Virginia Capes and the combined American and French operations at Yorktown. He chose this specific campaign to convey to the TRADOC staff, by example, the fundamentally joint nature of successful operations and the absolute interdependence of joint forces at the operational and strategic levels. General Franks argued that this was so historically and would be so in the future. 10

The authors also attempted to account for transition at the end of a conflict. In a section titled "Conflict Termination," the manual noted, "Success on the battlefield does not always lead to success in war." 11 Finally, for the first time, FM 100-5 devoted an entire chapter to operations other than war (OOTW). By no means complete in anticipating the difficult operations to come, FM 100-5 clearly articulated fundamental and important changes to the way the Army thought about what it might be asked to do and how to do those things in the post-Cold War era.

Organizations and Training: Experimenting with the Force

The LAM-TF and the battle labs played roles in creating a climate of change. They produced insights into how to leverage technology to meet emerging requirements. The battle labs supported experiments that featured new technologies which might have a high payoff as well as effect dramatic changes in formations and organizations. For example, in 1994 and 1995 LAM-TF and the battle labs teamed up with BCTP and the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) to conduct experiments in the CGSC PRAIRIE WARRIOR exercise series. Their intent was to test new technologies and radical combat formations embodied in an organization called the Mobile Strike Force. Air mechanization and digitally enabled battle command were central themes in both of these experiments. Additionally, the labs produced several concepts and equipment that the Army eventually incorporated; from the mundane "smart" identification card to auxiliary power units for tanks. But most important, the labs supported advancing the most important material idea emerging from DESERT STORM - Digital Battle Command and Force XXI. 12

Digitizing the Force: Enabling Force XXI

Force XXI described both the concept and intent for digital battle command in the Army. Convinced that this was the way to enhance combat capability without building new combat systems from the ground up, Generals Sullivan and Franks sought to digitally link combat systems based on a straightforward working hypothesis. They believed that if the Army equipped units with the means to see each other and to see the enemy, those units would be able to operate at higher tempos than opponents. This, in turn, would make them more lethal and thus more survivable. All of this could be achieved without adding more armor or building new systems. The labs sought to test this hypothesis and find means to improve the ability of units to see the enemy. This led to a fair number of sometimes-bizarre efforts ranging from hand- launched unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to various non line-of-sight strike capabilities. A suite of digital communication systems and software to aid decision making and shared situational awareness supported all of these emerging capabilities.

They did not develop their working hypothesis out of whole cloth. It came in stages. In the summer of 1993, General Franks visited Aberdeen Proving Grounds, where prototype M1A2 tanks were being tested. The M1A2 had on board a developmental system called the Inter- vehicular Information System (IVIS). IVIS contained the seeds of digitally enabling the crews to see each other and share information. But Franks was skeptical. He was not convinced that tank crews really could fight the tank and communicate with each other by looking at very crude computer screens. Franks asked the program executive officer (PEO) whether he could field a single platoon of tanks in a coming NTC rotation to enable a test under what Franks described as the most competitive environment short of combat. Major General Pete McVey agreed and shipped a platoon to the 1st Cavalry Division to be used in a test in the fall.

Consequently, in September 1993, one of the first experiments that ultimately delivered a digital Army to OIF occurred at the NTC. General Franks visited one of the platoon's after- action reviews. The tank crews, and in particular Sergeant First Class, Phillip H. Johndrow, were effusive about IVIS and what it could do for them in a fight. The future of the Army could be discerned in Johndrow's enthusiasm for the potential of IVIS. With it, all four tanks had computer screens that enabled them to "see" one another and pass email digitally. But the system was fragile, hard to use, and the racket produced by the constant warbling noise of the digital carrier wave was almost unbearable. Despite this, Johndrow was enthusiastic in his praise for the possibilities to Franks. Despite the flaws and the relatively primitive state of the system, Franks understood as he listened to the tankers explain that their ability to share information nearly instantly "magnified their combat power." To Franks, it was an epiphany, "I could see the potential for the entire combined arms team." 13 Johndrow and his platoon represented a major step in the Army's journey toward Force XXI. Ten years later, Johndrow served in Iraq as the command sergeant major of the digitally linked, air-transported 3rd Squadron, 2nd ACR (Light).

A Digitally Linked Battle Command System

To reach its Force XXI objective, the Army conducted a series of live, virtual, and constructive simulations to test the root hypothesis - battlefield visualization and digitized communication for all units would enhance the Army's warfighting effectiveness. It also developed combat requirements, not only for communication systems, but also for decision making and situational awareness aids as well. Together, these aids constituted the Army Battle Command System (ABCS), key elements of which provided the blue (friendly) common operational picture.

The Force XXI efforts were critical toward maintaining the Army's status as the most capable land force in the world. The relatively inexpensive investments in technology and battle command promised an exponential return in capabilities that would overwhelm any conceivable adversary. However, as General Sullivan often reminded soldiers - there were "no time- outs." While the Army moved toward Force XXI, it conducted operations in Somalia, Rwanda, and Haiti. Moreover, while FM 100-5 was an excellent - even prescient - start in describing how and where the Army fit into the nation's national security structure and strategy, ultimately it required revision to address the challenges imposed by these ongoing operations. 14

The Army in the New Global Context

The first operations the United States faced following DESERT STORM were antithetical to the traditional concept of war. The contingency operations expanded "warfighting" beyond the context of the traditional maneuver battles and engagements. The new threats resided all along the full spectrum of conflict, from low-grade political and social instability within a nation-state to major combat operations. The 1990s did not break this trend.

Moreover, America has a history of "first battle" experiences where initial setbacks or near-failures on the battlefield set the essential conditions for the innovation that eventually

The SIPRNET Revolution

In addition to the work to digitize the tactical Army forces, the Army was a full participant in the Department of Defense's program to field the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET). SIPRNET is a classified Defense Department network that is functionally equivalent to the civilian World Wide Web. Over the decade, SIPRNET became ubiquitous, with units at every echelon having access to a secure network where classified plans, discussions, and information could be shared freely. SIPRNET quietly enabled a revolution in how the Army, sister services, and the joint community planned and operated. Collaborating without the constraints of mailing classified data or talking over a secure telephone was a quantum leap in efficiency and effectiveness. In addition to desktop access to the latest plans and intelligence information, the secure email and chat rooms fostered crosstalk at all levels. Planners at home stations could follow current operations and conduct parallel planning to anticipate requirements. Conversely, an overeager command could monitor every potential contingency and plan for commitments that would never be levied - creating unnecessary confusion and fatigue.

prevailed. As Franks anticipated, these operations challenged the Army's existing capabilities and exposed obsolescence in the AirLand Battle doctrine. Meeting the new reality with a smaller force, equipped and proficient in a doctrine that was increasingly outdated and overcome by the changing security environment, forced solutions that were innovative, if occasionally painful or disastrous. The decade's worth of experience delivered several key lessons learned that paid dividends during OIF. Some lessons were self-evident and readily incorporated into the force. Others were not fully appreciated at the time but were eventually learned, practiced, and applied in Iraq to great effect. Still others would prove elusive, demanding more operational introspection and organizational learning. The result was an Army crossing the border into Iraq with many - but not all - of the lessons of the past decade explicitly or implicitly incorporated into the force.

Somalia, Haiti, and Rwanda - A Painful Education Process

The histories of these operations have been chronicled; the causes and effects of where the nation and its Army succeeded or fell short in these experiences have been extensively debated. However, regardless of the verdict of success or failure, what is clear is that the Army was able to learn from these early experiences in 1990s' warfare. Each contingency operation presented a unique scenario that led to some specific lessons. As OIF unfolded, the Army encountered elements of all these contingencies and was able to apply many - but not all - of the lessons gathered along the way. Arguably, the Army was able to assimilate many of the lessons from Somalia, Haiti, and Rwanda in ways that have only become apparent in the aftermath of OIF.


Operation RESTORE HOPE began as the first significant humanitarian assistance operation following the Cold War and DESERT STORM. However, it culminated as the first real US experience in the warlord politics so prevalent in much of the developing world. Though characterized since 1993 as a case of mission creep in the extreme, capped by the searing pictures of dead US soldiers being dragged through the street, there was a positive Army legacy from Somalia. 15 For better or worse, that yearlong stability and support campaign was effectively reduced to a single engagement on 3-4 October 1993. The Army was, in fact, hugely successful in the humanitarian assistance phases of the Somalia expedition. Some US Agency for International Development (USAID) reports attribute US Army-led humanitarian aid with preserving over 10,000 Somali lives. Though not obvious at the time, particularly in the aftermath of the loss of 18 soldiers, the Army learned how to wield combat power to stabilize a region and set the conditions for humanitarian assistance.

The Army also gained experience in operating in the unfamiliar political and cultural environment of clan and warlord politics. Moreover, in the aftermath of the Battle of Mogadishu, the Army learned about the rapidly changing and diverse nature of a single combat operation. The Task Force Ranger raid demonstrated the need to maintain a robust and multifaceted force, conditioned to transition rapidly from peace operations to full combat operations. This lesson played in virtually every subsequent expedition.


Operation RESTORE DEMOCRACY in Haiti (1994) was the Army's first post-Cold War experience in regime change operations. However, only in later years would the Army add to its positive legacy as a full-spectrum force. The mere threat of a pending airborne invasion by the 82nd Airborne Division brought about the final collapse of General Raoul Cedras' regime. Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division on the streets of Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitian maintained stability to facilitate the first democratic elections that country had known for many years. The Army relearned the lesson that the tactical actions of the Army soldier have powerful strategic, diplomatic, and informational effects. This lesson, gathered then, would be applied to great effect in the desert towns and cities of Iraq.


Like Somalia, Rwanda (1994) started as a humanitarian relief operation that had great potential to devolve into another clan warfare experience. The Army and the nation reluctantly approached the crisis in Rwanda with the memories of Mogadishu fresh on the collective consciousness. Lacking a doctrinal base that placed these types of operations within the proper context of the Army's mission, the Somalia experience lingered and had a palpable effect on future operational and strategic decisions.

Once on the scene, the US Army contributed to improving conditions in Rwanda. In doing so, it gathered valuable and long-lasting lessons that, unfortunately, were marginalized or overlooked amid the noise of downsizing and other missions. Perhaps the greatest lesson was that the Army led its deployment not with combat units and equipment (tanks and armored vehicles), but rather with combat support and combat service support personnel and systems. The tip of the spear was not a mechanized infantry company led by a burly male Ranger second lieutenant; it was a water purification platoon led by a female second lieutenant. The Army demonstrated an understanding of warfare in its broadest and most holistic context; that is, sometimes force may be applied to organize a solution rather than to impose one. The Army demonstrated the ability to tailor forces, doctrine, techniques, and lethal force to the environment. This flexibility would be required on the battlefields of Iraq in 2003.

The Balkans

The disintegration of the former Yugoslavian republic led to the Army's first long-term involvement in aftermath wars of self-determination, or "ethno-religious-based wars" since before World War I. 16 The extended Balkan experience, from its beginning to its status today, marked the beginning, albeit initially slow, of a fundamental change in the Army's core concept of war. The various experiences in the Balkans were disturbingly reminiscent of the previous contingency operations, yet were laced with new and even more challenging problems.


By 1995, as Army forces crossed the Sava River, the US Army was nearly 300,000 soldiers smaller than it had been coming out of the Gulf War. With less infrastructure and capability, it faced a much more complex environment and a more complicated and unconventional enemy. Moreover, it had several less-than-successful experiences in "other than war" operations under its belt and was not institutionally excited about a similar experience in the Balkans. The unfolding Balkan crises (1990-1995) presented the nation and the Army with a set of complex, multifaceted, and ambiguous security challenges for which there were few political, legal, or doctrinal guideposts. 17 These unknowns fed the Army's expectation of an unpleasant experience in the region. Attempts to minimize the strategic risk by imposing an arbitrary end date exacerbated operational ambiguity. 18 At the same time, the political leadership set conditions for the Army's entry into Bosnia-Herzegovina by garnering international support and securing signatures of the three factions on the Dayton Accords. In this environment of legitimacy - diplomatic, informational, military, and economic - the Army had the relative luxury (not a single combat death in eight years) to experiment with, and evolve, the doctrine and equipment left over from AirLand Battle.

In executing its mission, the Army had the opportunity to wrestle with the challenge of applying overwhelming conventional force as an instrument of peace enforcement and peacekeeping. Soldiers relearned how to wield a broadsword as a rapier, using a series of small strokes and precise blows to defeat an elusive threat indirectly over a longer period of time. Yet, based on the previous half-decade's lessons, the Army also had to maintain the soldier's ability to decisively destroy any threats if the situation changed. In short, the Army learned, reluctantly at times, how to apply an AirLand conventional force across an expanding spectrum of conflict with finesse and patience.


By the 1999 Kosovo crisis and intervention, the US Army was well versed in its role as a combined and joint team `service of employment' - the headquarters and command and control organization for multiservice and multinational campaigns. The Army served as a supporting effort to the air component's strategic bombing campaign. The air campaign and diplomatic pressure forced the Serbians to withdraw from Kosovo, enabling ground forces to enter unopposed and consolidate the victory. Several key lessons from the Kosovo experience were brought to bear in OIF.

The first lesson was that the air component produced the combat victory, but the Kosovars did not return until the combined ground forces secured the province - achieving the US strategic objective. In every way that mattered, air power won the fighting in Kosovo, while ground units served to consolidate that victory. The services learned important lessons in joint and combined cooperation and coordination that continued effectively during OIF. Other lessons include movement away from prescriptive time-phased force and deployment data 13 ? (TPFDD) force-deployment management system toward a more flexible request for forces (RFF) packaging system. The Task Force Hawk (an attack helicopter task force from US Army Europe) deployment to Albania in support of operations in Kosovo offered valuable lessons in air-ground integration and capability-based task organizing later applied in Iraq. Task Force Hawk failed to produce tangible benefit beyond driving home integration and training issues associated with deploying and employing forces. Kosovo drove home the lessons learned for stability operations and support operations in Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, and Bosnia.

Fielding Force XXI

Against this background of a changing environment and a growing body of lessons gathered, the journey to Force XXI approached the final objective. In the summer of 1997, the Army executed a series of exercises designed to certify the 4th ID - the first fully digitized unit in the Army's future digital force. The 4th ID spent most of the summer of 1997 in the field under the leadership of Major General William Wallace, testing the concepts for employment, new organizations, and required technologies. On the basis of those division-level exercises, and supported by the BCTP, the Army determined final adjustments of the division, its equipment, and its organization prior to a final round of certification exercises in the spring and fall of 2001. The Army delivered a certified, fit-to-fight, "digital" division in more than enough time to see combat in Iraq. 19 But then-CSA General Dennis J. Reimer, an interested participant in the exercises in the summer of 1997, fully understood that Force XXI was not an end state. As he put it, "The Army is combining industrial age equipment - like M1A1 tanks and AH-64 attack helicopters - with information-age technology to vastly improve our warfighting capability." 20

Reimer went on to add, "Army XXI is an intermediate step." 21 The Army moved rapidly to reorganize all of its divisions in the Force XXI model. Called the Limited Conversion Division (LCD), the new organization was smaller than its predecessors but was structured to take advantage of the increased lethality afforded by digitally linked units. Additionally, the LCDs fielded more capable weapon systems, including the M1A2 and Paladin howitzer. The plan was to field the advanced weapon systems into the LCD structure as funding and development allowed. Yet, even with less-than-optimum digital links, units that deployed for OIF without the full suite of proposed materiel improvements still proved significantly more lethal than their DESERT STORM predecessors.

Institutionalizing the Lessons

In the 1990s, events moved fast - faster than the Army could adjust DOTMLPF. Nonetheless, there were many notable successes. TRADOC developed and matured a process to draw lessons from the field and apply them to DOTMLPF:

  • The Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) served as the primary tool for taking these lessons back to the institutional Army for analysis and incorporation into the training base.
  • The COE, the notional training environment, replicated the potential threats an Army unit might face as well as the overall security environment in which such operations might take place. Unlike the rigid and template-driven Soviet doctrine-based Cold War-era OPFOR, the COE is dynamic and represents a realistic amalgamation of the various threats and conditions in the world. The work to conceptualize the COE forced 14 ? commanders to consider the battlespace across the spectrum of conflict in ways rarely considered over the previous 50 years. The Army's adoption of the COE is remarkable because it is largely the result of an acceptance of the idea that the Army had to change how it viewed the operational environment following the Cold War. The COE is an estimate of the possibilities and an accounting for known variables that forces intellectual and physical agility.
  • The Combat Training Centers (NTC, JRTC, CMTC, and BCTP) adjusted their representations of the battlefield to reflect experiences learned on the fields of Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda, and the Balkans. For a variety of reasons, JRTC was the most successful in replicating the environment experienced in Iraq, although the other centers were not far behind. Both JRTC and CMTC mobilized resources to train for environments other than the Soviet Central Front model earlier than the NTC and BCTP. At the outset, the JRTC training featured contingencies that in the 1980s were less dangerous than the Cold War's worst case, but in some ways more complex. In the early 1990s the CMTC embarked on changes to accommodate possible missions in the Balkans. BCTP made similar adjustments, including civilians on the battlefield, more complex scenarios, and greater emphasis on SOF within the limitations of the simulations used. The NTC also responded to changes in the environment but retained a requirement to train for major regional contingencies, so change there was more incremental than at the other centers. By the late 1990s the NTC attempted to account for changes in the operational environment. These centers reinforced the lessons gathered in the field, turning many of them into valid lessons learned. Deployment Readiness Exercises (DREs) served to reinforce these
  • lessons learned just before the forces deployed to the operations. One of the benefits of the high deployment operations tempo was that a vast percentage of soldiers rotated through the DREs and the subsequent contingency operations, leading to a wide distribution of these lessons and skills.

Thus, the Army suffered a swirling mix of initiatives, lessons, bureaucratic dynamics, policy and fiscal challenges, and a myriad of realized and unrealized opportunities as it approached the end of the 1990s. However, many of the conditions for a dramatic leap forward in capabilities were resident in this chaotic and frequently quixotic environment. But before discussing how these vectors coalesced to produce a successful and dominant force, it is necessary to describe the changes going on in the joint community and within the sister services. Indeed, these initiatives, coupled with the experiences of the 1990s, set the necessary conditions for much of the Army's evolution. Just as the Army absolutely depends upon the joint team to get to, and execute, the fight, the joint team depends on the Army to consolidate tactical gains - to link tactical engagements with the nation's strategic objectives. With this concept firmly implanted, changes in the joint community gave context, weight, validity, and a sense of urgency to the Army's introspection.

Evolution of the Joint Community The Army in a New DOD Context

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The Army's institutional and organizational response to the challenges of the 1990s did not occur in a vacuum. The sister services, joint community, and the entire Department of were equally aggressive in changing to meet the new security environment. Their changes fundamentally altered the Army's operating environment and had far-reaching consequences in how, when, and where the Army would operate.

Joint and Service Vision and Doctrine

At the joint level, the regional combatant commands (RCCs) (formerly the unified commands) matured into true joint force headquarters for their areas of responsibility. DESERT SHIELD/STORM marked the first multicorps, truly joint operation since the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986. CENTCOM established the initial standard for what joint operations could and should be. In the following years, all of the RCCs matured and gained experience in organizing and commanding joint operations. Concurrently, the service components gained experience in integrating into the RCCs' operations plans (OPLANS) to better field a joint force.

Training Together

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993, General Colin L. Powell, among others, knew the key to meeting challenges of the future depended on refining how US services work together in joint operations. He believed that a single, US-based unified command should be responsible for training forces from all services for joint operations. This unified command would supply ready joint forces to other unified commanders anywhere in the world. In 1993, US Atlantic Command fulfilled Powell's vision and became the first unified command to serve as a US-based force trainer, integrator, and provider. Under the 1993 Unified Command Plan, Atlantic Command assumed combatant command of the Army's FORSCOM, the Air Force's Air Combat Command (ACC), the Marine Corps' Forces Command Atlantic, and the Navy's Atlantic Fleet.

In October 1999, Atlantic Command changed to JFCOM to emphasize the command's role in leading transformation of US military forces. JFCOM gained a functional mandate to lead transformation of US military joint warfighting into the 21st century. The designation reflected the command's commitment to experimentation with new warfighting concepts, doctrine, and technologies. Thus, the joint community had a powerful and effective headquarters designed to integrate and harmonize the respective services' capabilities to achieve a truly joint force. OIF reflected the flexibility and capabilities inherent in such a force.

While the joint community moved to establish the necessary infrastructure to transform all of the armed forces, each service went through a similar renaissance in adjusting to the new environment. To meet the challenges of global engagements from peacekeeping to major combat operations, the US Air Force transformed itself into Air Expeditionary Forces (AEFs). The AEFs are tailored and configured to respond across the full spectrum of aerospace operations. Airmen from across the Air Force contribute to the expeditionary capability - from those who support the nation's deterrent umbrella, to those who deploy, to those who operate the fixed facilities to which the military reaches back for support. This reorganization gave the

Similarly, the US Navy and Marine Corps refocused to develop and mature their expeditionary capability. Forward...From the Sea, first published in 1994, reflected the Navy's shift from solely control of the sea to projecting power ashore. Naval and Marine Corps forces serve as America's constant forward presence, especially in areas where a substantial land or air presence is not possible. Moreover, they frequently serve as "first responders," helping to shape and manage a crisis in support of subsequent sustained operations. Over the decade, the Navy developed the doctrine and capabilities to project combat power deep inland, with the Marine operations more than 200 miles overland into Afghanistan as the seminal example. Coupled with the US Air Force's reach, these capabilities offered the nation the ability to project power virtually anywhere in the world. Moreover, the mix of capabilities ensured that forces could be tailored to meet the specific requirements of a contingency operation.

Service Enabling Investments

Each service made significant capital investments to enable this evolved vision, doctrine, and organization. Most of the investments focused on extending and improving the nation's strategic reach. Remarkably, both the Navy and Air Force made major investments in strategic lift capacity that would directly enable the Army to conduct sustained operations far from the United States. These purchases include the following:

  • The US Navy's eight Fast Sealift Ships are the fastest cargo ships in the world. The ships can travel at speeds of up to 33 knots and are capable of sailing from the US East Coast to Europe in just six days, and to the Persian Gulf via the Suez Canal in 18 days, thus ensuring rapid delivery of military equipment in a crisis. Combined, the eight Fast Sealift Ships can carry nearly all the equipment needed to outfit a full Army heavy division.

Figure 3. US Navy fast sealift ship

  • Military Sealift Command's newest class of ships - Large, Medium-speed, Roll-on/Roll- off Ships, or LMSR - has vastly expanded the nation's sealift capability in the 21st century. Twenty LMSRs have been converted or built at US shipyards. Each LMSR can carry an entire US Army battalion TF, including 58 tanks, 48 other tracked vehicles, plus more than 900 trucks and other wheeled vehicles. They have a cargo carrying capacity of more than 380,000 square feet, equivalent to almost eight football fields, and can travel at 24 knots.

Figure 4. US Navy LMSR

  • The Army's Theater Support Vessel (TSV) provides the operational Army commander lift assets that bypass predictable entry points and obstacles. Its shallow draft capability frees it from reliance on deep-water entry ports. For example, the 530-km Albanian coast has four major seaports, more than 20 naval ports and a few fishing ports. None of these are accessible by the LMSR, but the TSV can discharge troops and equipment at all but the smallest port. In fact, with the appropriate gradient, it will access the many lagoons and beaches along portions of the world's coastlines. One TSV equals 23 C-17 sorties and can travel at an average speed of 40 knots, self-deploy over 4,726 nautical miles, carry 350 fully loaded soldiers, has a helicopter flight deck, and can load/discharge in less than 20 minutes. The TSV's flexibility maximizes access, creates the greatest insertion uncertainty for an enemy, and provides a significant increase in efficient and effective operational reach.

Figure 5. US Army TSV

  • The Air Force's C-17 Globemaster III is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main operating bases or directly to forward bases in the deployment area. The aircraft can also perform tactical airlift and airdrop missions when required. The inherent flexibility and performance of the C-17 improves the ability of the total airlift system to fulfill the worldwide air mobility requirements of the United States. Its payload capacity of 170,900 pounds can carry an M-1A2 main battle tank or up to 102 combat-loaded paratroopers directly into the forward area. The fleet of 134 aircraft, including 14 especially equipped for special operations, provides rapid, agile reach to almost anywhere in the world. Command

Figure 6. US Air Force C-17 Globemaster

  • The present National Military Strategy (NMS) calls for forward presence, but with primary reliance on US-based contingency forces. With 60 percent of the Army divisional force stationed in the Continental United States (CONUS), theArmy Pre-positioned Stocks (APS) represent a significant investment to enable the rapid employment of a credible ground force on short notice. The APS fleet consists of seven pre-positioned brigade sets (two in Central Europe, one in Italy, one in Korea, two in Southwest Asia, and one afloat). These stocks shorten the employment timeline and offer a credible power-projection capability.
  • Similar to the APS, the Marine Corps' 16 ships of the Maritime Pre-positioning Force (MPF), forming three squadrons (Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean), bolster the USMC's force-projection capacity. Each Maritime Pre-positioning Squadron (MPS) carries sufficient equipment and supplies to sustain 17,000 Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force personnel for up to 30 days. Each ship can discharge cargo either pier-side or while anchored offshore using lighterage carried aboard. This capability gives the Marine Corps the ability to operate in both developed and underdeveloped areas of the world.

Thus, the mid to late 1990s marked a significant investment, both intellectually and fiscally, in creating a more agile, responsive, and capable joint force, able to project overwhelming combat power anywhere in the world. However, by their very nature, the Army's sister services were able to reorganize to meet these requirements without a significant reinvestment in their core combat capabilities and systems. The very nature of air and naval combat power lends itself relatively easily to global mobility and strategic reach. Unfortunately, the "big five" Army

Figure 7. Army pre-positioned stocks

did not enjoy this luxury. Instead, it had to deliberately address the evolution of its fundamental combat systems. It is within this environment that the Army's efforts to change and evolve crystallized, bringing to a close the second period of the interwar era.

The Army's Transformation

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If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less.
General Eric Shinseki,
Chief of Staff of the Army 22

Upon assuming the duties of Army chief of staff in June 1999, General Eric K. Shinseki quickly assessed that, despite all of the doctrinal evolution of the 1990s, the Army's core capabilities remained rooted in the "big five" systems. As such, regardless of the amount of work on the margins, the force would be unable to deploy in a manner that was both timely and relevant to the strategic environment. Task Force Hawk's challenges in deploying to Kosovo later in 1999 reinforced this perception. It appeared that the sister services were capable of operating effectively in the new environment, while the Army would be relegated to "cleanup operations." All of these factors, and more, added a sense of urgency to the Army's transformation.

What followed was a sweeping vision and initiative to accelerate the transformation process begun with Force XXI. The goal was to develop a more capable and employable Army while retaining the ability to fight and win the nation's ground wars. Shinseki drove the institutional Army at an almost frenetic pace to ensure the force evolved rapidly yet logically. He approached the challenge on several fronts, marking the beginning of the final period in the Army's interwar era.

Doctrinally, the Army published FM 3-0, Operations, in summer of 2001. The new manual replaced the venerable but obsolete FM 100-5 series with a holistic vision of how the Army

Figure 8. Army path to the future force

and ground operations fit into the nation's strategic application of military power. The doctrine holds warfighting as the Army's primary focus but further recognizes that the ability of Army forces to dominate land warfare also provides the ability to dominate any situation in military operations other than war. The foundation of FM 3-0, the Army's keystone doctrine for full- spectrum operations, is built on global strategic responsiveness for prompt, sustained Army force operations on land as a member of a joint or multinational force.

By establishing a comprehensive structure for offensive, defensive, stability, and support operations, FM 3-0 provides the context for conducting extended ground campaigns rather than mere battles and engagements. Indeed, the core competency to campaign is a defining characteristic of the Army and captures the requirement to conduct operations across the spectrum of war, from major combat operations to the peace enforcement and peacekeeping operations that typically follow. Clearly, campaigning is more than just extended combat operations. As the ongoing operations in Iraq illustrate, the Army remains a key component of the nation's ability to influence foreign powers well past the end of conventional combat. In short, Army forces sustain operations to make permanent the otherwise temporary effects of fires alone and must be able to plan and operate across the spectrum to achieve that strategic goal.

Across DOTMLPF, the Army adopted a three-prong approach that was both radical and conservative at the same time. In choosing to retain the "legacy" force as the guarantor of American security during the transformation period, the Army deliberately forfeited a more rapid and sweeping change that additional resources would have provided. 23

Meanwhile, to ensure a capability to meet the requirements posed by the changing strategic environment, the Army developed the Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SBCTs). The SBCT is designed to fill the gap between the legacy light and heavy forces - offering more protection and mobility than a light division while being far more deployable than an armor or mechanized infantry division. Of course, the SBCTs enjoy - and suffer from - all of the characteristics of any compromise capability. Their projected employment in Iraq will prove to be the first live test of the concept and weapon system.

Both of these vectors were designed to maintain an adequate capability to meet the nation's needs while the real transformation work was being done. On a highly aggressive timeline, Army transformation involves the directed research and operational design of a force and capability that will result in the future force. The future force marks a fielded force that is fundamentally different from the current capabilities. It will be able to:

  • conduct operational maneuver from strategic distances. conduct forcible entry at multiple points, with the ability to overwhelm enemy anti- access capabilities.
  • operate day or night in close and complex terrain in all weather conditions.
  • win on the offensive, initiate combat on its terms, gain and retain the initiative, and build momentum quickly to win decisively.

The intent is a force that is physically light and deployable but presents overmatching combat power by applying advanced technology, information dominance, and advanced operational concepts to defeat a wide range of forces as an integral part of the joint force fight.

The Army was well on the way to implementing this three-prong strategy when the enemy struck. The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 interrupted the Army's deliberate plan for innovation and unavoidably truncated some ongoing organizational learning. However, the attack served to refocus and crystallize the Army's transformation efforts to meet more critical and time-sensitive demands.

11 September 2001

Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes, or in their offices; secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers; moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing, have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed; our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. . . . America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.
President George W. Bush
11 September 2001 24

If there was any question of the commitment of the US Army to being active in 21st-century security affairs, it was answered on 11 September 2001 when four jetliners were transformed into weapons of mass destruction directed against the United States homeland. Though not explicit at that time, the US Army, in fact, already had its marching orders delivered that day.

On 20 September 2001, President George W. Bush addressed a joint session of Congress and a nation in mourning, laying forth a final articulation of what would become the Bush Doctrine:

Americans are asking: Who attacked our country? The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as al Qaeda...Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated...These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends. They stand against us, because we stand in their way... Americans are asking: How will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command - every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war - to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network. This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat. Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime. 25

The Bush Doctrine, later incorporated in the 2002 National Military Strategy (NMS) (draft), fundamentally changed the way the United States would ensure its national security. The shift from the previous "shape, respond, prepare" posture to the new "assure, dissuade, deter forward, and decisively defeat" had fundamental implications for how the armed forces, and the Army in particular, mans, trains, and equips itself. The new strategy requires a fully expeditionary force capable of rapidly imposing America's will on hostile foreign soil and then maintaining a robust presence to ensure the change is lasting. This implies the inextricable linkage between the postconflict peace and the conduct of the combat operations - the campaign. Again, while all of the service capabilities are necessary to the successful combat, the Army offers the follow-through capability vital to achieving the national strategic objectives.

The themes and implications within the new NMS resonated neatly with the Army's ongoing transformation efforts. And while some have argued that this new threat arose "while America slept," the "sleeper" was arguably already dreaming about a solution. The events of 9/11 did not place the Army on a new pathway toward change, but it did give that trek a tangible focus and sense of urgency. While already walking, the Army began to sprint toward true full- spectrum, 21st-century warfare.

Less than two months following President Bush's 20 September speech, the US Army found itself in the mountains of Afghanistan as part of the joint and interagency team, deposing the Taliban regime that had provided the sanctuary from which al Qaeda launched its attacks. Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) would become the first operational phase of what the president had confirmed to be a long campaign against global terrorism and the harboring state regimes. Moreover, OEF marked the first commitment of American forces in what would become simultaneous combat operations across multiple theaters of war since World War II.


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OEF illustrates the continuity of change within the joint force and the Army, tracing all the way back to the end of ODS, through the evolutions described above. OEF validated many of those underlying concepts and experiences of the transformation. Moreover, it validated the complementary vectors described in the joint community and its maturing doctrine. It clearly demonstrated the overwhelming effectiveness of a truly joint force leveraging all of the unique, complementary capabilities that the services bring to the fight. The initial Army presence, in the form of special operations forces (SOF), entered the fray with a rough vision of conducting an integrated, synchronized fight. All of the services matured in that pattern as the fight progressed. The learning that took place there played directly into how the force fought and won OIF.

As a test bed and demonstration platform for these futuristic visions, Afghanistan was almost as "worst case" as one could imagine. It was an austere theater about as far from the United States as one could get. The enemy was fleeting and unconventional. The terrain was rugged in the extreme. The infrastructure was almost nonexistent. And finally, the surrounding region was unstable and characterized by a variety of competing interests. Within this environment, the US Air Force, Navy, Marines Corps, and SOF learned and demonstrated precisely those characteristics and capabilities that the conventional Army was building toward. They reached deep into formerly denied territory and applied overwhelming combat power in a highly focused manner against a dispersed and challenging enemy. Further, they operated in a unique coalition environment arguably not seen since the days of Lawrence of Arabia.

During OEF's initial decisive combat phase, the Army's participation was generally limited to its contribution to the SOF community. The fight started on 7 October 2001 with an air campaign to secure air supremacy. By 15 October, Army SOF were in theater and established the initial contacts that led to a coalition force of US and UK forces and Afghani rebels. With these conditions set, the joint-coalition fight began in earnest. In a celebrated mixture of the old and new means of warfare - horsebacks and lasers - US forces orchestrated and brought to bear the unique and complementary powers of the services to destroy the Taliban regime.

The first coalition combat action took place on 21 October when Afghani forces under the command of Northern Alliance General Abdul Rashid Dostum seized the village of Bishqab with the assistance of US precision fires supported by SOF terminal guidance. The Marine Corps projected combat power several hundred miles farther than its doctrine posited and coalition aircraft provided highly effective close air support and aerial interdiction in ways previously considered unconventional. In another mix of legacy forces being functionally recapitalized into the 21st century through advanced technology, B-52 strategic bombers served as close air support platforms for the Joint Direct Attack Munitions System (JDAMS).

All of these efforts led to a sweeping and utter defeat of the Taliban forces, marked by Mullah Omar and the senior Taliban leadership fleeing Kandahar on 6 December 2001. However, coalition actions at Tora Bora (1-17 December) demonstrated a key shortfall in relying solely on coalition partners for the credible ground force; it appears that the coalition forces did not aggressively pursue or block the fleeing Taliban forces after the combat began. Failing to capture these senior leaders was a blow to US strategic goals. Nonetheless, these actions opened the path for an extended US effort to reshape the region to be more stable and economically successful. 26

Conventional Army forces, primarily the light forces from the 10th Mountain Division, 101st Airborne Division, and the 82nd Airborne Division, arrived in sequence after the bulk of the decisive operations were completed. Operation ANACONDA (March 2002), the first major employment of conventional forces against remaining Taliban forces, had the Army employing the joint fires procedures pioneered by the SOF over the previous weeks. These forces defeated the remnants of the Taliban quickly in a series of engagements and separate battles stretching for almost a month.

Despite succeeding in Afghanistan, there remained lessons to learn. Joint fires, despite the successes alluded to above, were by no means uniformly timely and accurate. Ground commanders complained that they did not always get the support they needed on time. Operation ANACONDA also demonstrated a continuing requirement for organic immediate suppressive fires that, despite their best efforts, fighters could not deliver. Seams also developed between SOF and conventional forces in execution. In the months leading up to OIF, the services strove to improve on their record in Afghanistan.

The subsequent transition to stability operations and support operations revealed the Army's forte and unique capabilities. Winning the combat was necessary but not sufficient to meet the nation's strategic goals. Transitioning Afghanistan to a stable and secure state that did not harbor terrorists required a long-term presence by an agile force capable of rapidly moving from stability operations to combat and back again. While not required to participate substantively in the initial combat operations, the conventional Army served - and continues to serve on point as part of the coalition force - conducting sustained operations to secure the hard-won victory and achieve the nation's long-term goals.

In retrospect, OEF illustrates several key vectors that combined to make that campaign unique while having a tremendous influence on OIF. Unlike its experience in Southwest Asia, the United States had not spent a considerable amount of energy, time, and resources toward improving its access and influence in the vicinity of Afghanistan. Indeed, when the airliners destroyed the World Trade Center, the US had an active embargo against Afghanistan's two major neighbors: Iran and Pakistan. Suffice it to say, the conditions were not set to facilitate an "easy" introduction of combat power into that region.

Oddly though, Afghanistan's isolated geography relative to America's previous political interests set the conditions for some very positive operational developments. Arguably, the lack of a robust theater, coupled with the daunting terrain, vast distances, and the unique challenges of the enemy and coalition forces created conditions that forced the separate services and other government agencies to cooperate and integrate in ways never previously thought possible or practicable. With minimal guidance or directives from their bureaucracies, the various forces and agencies in theater synchronized their operations out of necessity and a sense of urgency and outrage. And while the joint targeting effort was not without its shortcomings, the results were stunning and provided the nation's first clear glimpse of the power and capabilities of a truly joint, combined, interagency force.


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In years following DESERT STORM, the Army largely transformed itself. This transformation stemmed partly from a succession of senior officers who understood that DESERT STORM and the end of the Cold War produced conditions that required rapid change. That change came sometimes against considerable internal resistance and sometimes as a consequence of failure, as in Somalia and Task Force Hawk. But much of that change stemmed from the general flexibility of the Army and the persistence of soldiers such as Generals Dennis Reimer and William Hartzog, who replaced Sullivan and Franks respectively. Change in the other services, the Department of Defense, and the Congress stimulated transformation, or in some cases, enabled the change the Army desired. The Army also responded to and anticipated change that the increasingly dynamic operational environment required. Much remained to be done, as will be seen in succeeding chapters. Nonetheless, the Army that crossed the berm on 21 March 2003 did so with a tradition of nearly 228 years of service to the nation, but it was also an Army a dozen years into a journey of transformation and fully committed to dynamic change to anticipate and prepare for future challenges.

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  1. General Frederick M. Franks, Jr., "TRADOC at 20: Where Tomorrow's Victories Begin," ARMY, October 1993, 51.
  2. Alvin and Heidi Toffler, War and Antiwar: Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company: 1993), 64-80.
  3. General (Retired) Gordon R. Sullivan and Michael V. Harper, Hope is Not a Method (New York: Times Business, Random House, 1996), 5.
  4. Richard M. Swain, Lucky War: Third Army in Desert Storm (Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: CGSC Press, 1997), xv.
  5. Gordon R. Sullivan, General, CSA, SUBJECT: "Reshaping Army Doctrine," Memorandum for Lieutenant General Frederick M. Franks, Jr., 29 July 1991.
  6. Personal Message for General Galvin, et al. (senior Army commanders), "Louisiana Maneuvers, 1994," DTG 091415MAR92.
  7. John L. Romjue, American Army Doctrine for the Post-Cold War (Fort Monroe, VA: TRADOC, 1990), 26-27.
  8. Ibid., 21-27.
  9. US Army Field Manual 100-5, Operations, June 1993, vi.
  10. Romjue, 113-127.
  11. US Army Field Manual 100-5, Operations, 6-23; and Romjue, 113-128.
  12. TRADOC Pamphlet, Battle Labs, Maintaining the Edge (Fort Monroe, Virginia, 1994). On the development of the LAM-TF, see Hope is not a Method and General Jack N. Merritt, US Army, Retired, "A Talk With the Chief," ARMY, June 1995, 14-24. The major directives to establish these efforts include General Sullivan's letter to General Franks dated 29 July 1991; General Sullivan's letter to the field titled "Force XXI," dated 12 March 1994; and General Sullivan's memorandum titled "Force XXI Experimental Force Prime Directive," dated 14 February 1995. This last memorandum took the effort from concepts in labs to a fielded force experimentation program that ultimately resulted in fielding and certifying 4th ID as the first "digital" division. Force XXI is the carrier that produced the digital battle command systems that are discussed in this study.
  13. General Frederick M. Franks, Jr., US Army, Retired, Telephonic interview conducted by Colonel Gregory Fontenot, US Army, Retired, 12 August 2003.
  14. The 1993 edition of FM 100-5 did a first-rate job of describing the future strategic environment and the range of operations that the Army would have to conduct. The manual also identified places where the conduct of warfare seemed to be changing and accounted for those changes by advancing concepts such as depth and simultaneous attack. FM 3-0, which succeeded the 1993 edition, built on that work and the discussion that followed. Finally, experience in operations enabled the realization of the vision posited in the 1993 FM 100-5 in FM 3-0, published in 2001.
  15. Steven L. Arnold, "Somalia: An Operation Other Than War," Military Review, December 1993, accessed 11 February 2003.
  16. Allen Buchanan, "Self-Determination, Secession, and the Rule of Law," in Robert McKim and Jeff McMahan, eds., The Morality of Nationalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 301-323.
  17. US Army Peacekeeping Institute, Bosnia-Herzegovina After-Action Review Conference Report (Carlisle Barracks, PA: US Army War College).
  18. There are a number of good sources for understanding the history of the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Of these, Susan L. Woodward's Balkan Tragedy (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution Press, 1995) is perhaps the most comprehensive. See also Lori F. Damrosch, Enforcing Restraint: Collective Intervention in Internal Conflicts (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1993), 22-26; Peacekeeping and the Challenge of Civil Conflict Resolution; David A. Charters, ed. (Center for Conflict Studies, University of New Brunswick, 1994); William J. Durch and James A. Schear, "Faultlines: UN Operations in the Former Yugoslavia," in William J. Durch, ed. UN Peacekeeping, American Policy, and the Uncivil Wars of the 1990s (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996), 199-200; Max G. Manwaring, "Peace and Stability Lessons from Bosnia," PARAMETERS, Winter 1998.
  19. Certification of the 4th ID occurred in two parts. In the spring, Phase 1 put a brigade of the division through a certification exercise at the NTC. The division executed Phase 2 at Fort Hood in October 2001. It was a long road from inception to combat ready. From the time that General Sullivan issued his prime directive in March 1995 until the conclusion of the final certification exercise in October 2001, the division either served as a test bed or was fielding and testing objective equipment for Force XXI. It took six long years, but it produced thoroughly tested systems that are fielded widely in the Army.
  20. General Dennis J. Reimer, US Army, Retired, and James Jay Carafano, ed., Soldiers Are Our Credentials (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 2000), 161. Soldiers Are Our Credentials are General Reimer's edited papers.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Prepared remarks by the Chief of Staff, US Army, General Eric K. Shinseki, at the Association of the United States Army Seminar on 8 November 2001, Washington, DC.
  23. Shortly after General Peter J. Schoomaker followed General Shinseki as the CSA on 1 August 2003, he updated the Transformation concept from the depicted three-prong approach to an "Objective Force" to a continuous evolution from the "current force" to the "future force." The Army's concept paper states: "Transformation occurs within a context of continuous change. We will provide for the accelerated fielding of select future force capabilities to enable the enhancement of the current force. The goal of Army Transformation is to provide relevant and ready current forces and future forces organized, trained, and equipped for joint, interagency, and multinational full spectrum operations. Army transformation occurs within the larger context of continuous change brought about through the interaction of constantly evolving capabilities between current and future forces. "The current force is the operational Army today. It is organized, trained and equipped to conduct operations as part of the Joint Force. Designed to provide the requisite warfighting capabilities the Joint Force commander needs across the full range of military operations, the current force's ability to conduct major combat operations underscores its credibility and effectiveness for full spectrum operations and fulfills the enduring obligation of Army forces to fight wars and win the peace. The future force is the operational force the Army continuously seeks to become. Informed by national security and Department of Defense guidance, it is the strategically responsive, precision maneuver force, dominant across the full range of military operations envisioned in the future global security environment." From http:/www.army.mil/hewayahead/uality6.html, accessed 17 December 2003.
  24. President George W. Bush, public radio address, 2030, 11 September 2001, Capitol, Washington, DC. Transcript from http:/www.whitehouse.gov/ews/eleases/001/9/0010911-16.html, accessed 15 July 2003.
  25. President George W. Bush, Address to Congress, 20 September 2001, Capitol, Washington, DC. Transcript from http:/www.whitehouse.gov/ews/eleases/001/9/0010920-8.html, accessed 15 July 2003.
  26. Stephen Biddle, Afghanistan and the Future of Warfare: Implications for Army and Defense Policy (Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute: November 2002), 8-12.

Back to Top

[ Contents ] [ Foreword ] [ Preface ] [ Acknowledgments ] [ Introduction ]
[ Ch 1 ] [ Ch 2 ] [ Ch 3 ] [ Photos ] [ Ch 4 ] [ Ch 5 ] [ Ch 6 ] [ Ch 7 ] [ Ch 8 ]
[ OIF-SG Team ] [ Order of Battle ] [ Glossary ] [ Bibliography ]

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