By adopting modular brigades, the Army is adjusting how it schools its troops, said officials. Much of the coming change in preparing soldiers for battle was dictated by experience gained in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The purpose of reorganizing the Army into modular units is to provide the joint force commander with the "right land forces, and the right command and control for the mission," explained Lt. Gen. John Curran, director of the futures center at Army Training and Doctrine Command.
The modularity concept creates standard brigade configurations that contain a pre-requisite combined arms capability composed of maneuver, fires, aviation, sustainment and protection elements, Curran said. "The mix of forces is determined by the mission and not the large standing organization that we have today in a division," he said.
The smallest tactical units will not see much difference in the way they prepare under the new modularity concept, Curran told National Defense at an expeditionary warfare conference organized by the National Defense Industrial Association.
By contrast, staffs will make bigger adjustments to work within the modular brigades, said Curran. "The staffs are organized differently. They are in many cases more robust," he said. One example lies in intelligence, he added, where staff officers "are training differently in the use of information technology to improve battle management and command."
"For captains, this is where the change shows," explained Brig. Gen. Ben Freakley, commander of Fort Benning, Ga., at this year's infantry conference. Modularity is emphasized in the advanced captain courses at Fort Benning, Fort Sill, Okla. (artillery) and Fort Knox, Ky. (armor). Majors training at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., also will be recipients of this new schooling.
"My brigade operations officer had to primarily think about training a tank battalion and two infantry battalions, which was all about gunnery and maneuver," Freakley said. These battalions worked together with the engineers, the support battalion and artillery when assigned to a fight, he explained.
"The going-in position was 'well, this support battalion or this direct support artillery, or engineers will be trained by their units. We will get a trained unit, and I just have to fight them.'"
Now, the brigade operations officer will have to think about training engineers, artillery batteries and forward-support companies, Freakley noted. "We will have to work that here in the captains course, and it will have to be worked on at Leavenworth and the war colleges," he added.
Curran said TRADOC is writing the doctrine for the modular brigades this year. The 3rd Infantry Division trained under the new design both at the Joint Training Readiness Center at Fort Polk, La., and the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. The commanders provided comments on the reorganization and leader training and suggested some changes, said Freakley. "I would like to see the doctrine come out in 2005, get it worked at the combat training centers, [and] get input on how we are doing," he said.
When it comes to preparing the basic infantrymen to deal with combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, current doctrine is dated, Freakley said. "We have soldiers out there who do not have the doctrine they need," he said in a presentation at the infantry conference.
Fort Benning has taken some steps to close the gap. Fort Benning has a combined arms tactics division, which has improved the infantry's school process for "getting some prioritization back," said Freakley. Initial entry training also is well resourced, he added. "We have 12 drill sergeants per company. We have the right company commanders in shape," he said. "I think we are responsible for some 70-plus manuals."
When the U.S. Army began the stability and support operations phase in Iraq, "the complexity of the variables in the environment were not fully understood and accounted for in doctrine and training," he said. "It is hard to have a demonstration at home station or at the Joint Readiness Training Center with 2,000 people in a demonstration."
Nevertheless, Freakley said he views the emphasis on the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance battalions within the modular design "a brilliant stroke."
"It is exactly what we need: human intelligence inside the battalion. That is a growing, adaptive army in my view," he said. But he acknowledged the service still has work to do to adapt to stability and security as well as unconventional operations.
The infantry must understand that it is part of the coalition and combined arms team, he said in his presentation.
Meanwhile, the Army is moving away from technical forces with some fighting experience to a combat Army that has technical proficiency, he said. "It is a combat focus with a technical capability," he said. "The chief [Gen. Peter Schoomaker] says he needs pent-athletes, not specialists."
Readying soldiers for urban environments, which includes teaching them how to secure and clear buildings and to avoid ambushes, "should be part of the training, year-in and year-out," he said.
Fort Benning now prepares soldiers to go straight into combat rather than join their first unit as used to be the case, said Freakley. "We have to make sure that the soldier who trains at Fort Benning is trained to join the unit in combat, because they do not get much in-theater training," he said. Fort Benning is expecting to train 75,000 soldiers this year, he said.
The Army, however, may not have enough infantry for its new combat teams-the units comprising the modular brigades, said Freakley. Currently, the Army has three brigade combat teams: the light BCT, the heavy BCT and the Stryker light armored vehicle BCT.
"The Stryker brigades have a tremendous amount of infantry, and they have shown to be capable with that," he said. "I want to be clear, and I think my entire chain of command recognizes that we probably want or need an additional maneuver battalion as well."
Even though the infantry and the heavy modular brigades are interdependent and getting more connectivity to joint intelligence and joint fires, Freakley said he wants to press forward with increasing infantry numbers to fight in urban and complex terrain. That, in Freakley's opinion, would give the brigade commander some resiliency after a fight to either advance to the next mission or to hold his position.
One light brigade combat team consists of two infantry battalions, with three rifle companies and a weapons company in a battalion. "We are going from nine infantry companies and three weapons companies to six rifle companies with two weapons companies," he explained.
The heavy combat team includes two combined arms battalions with two tank companies, two mechanized infantry companies and an engineer company with a forward-support company in each battalion. "If you told me you were going to have a heavy brigade go into a city to fight, I would probably like to see each of those battalions have a motorized infantry company to give them additional infantry," he said.
Adding more infantry is not a matter of money, but a matter of efficiency. The Army already is planning on creating ten more brigades under the modular plan, he said.
"When you want to move as rapidly as our Army wants, there is an element of physics, of how fast you can recruit, train, equip and put the soldiers in the organization. You can just go so fast," he said. "We are not going to give up on the training."
Motorizing the infantry brigade combat team also would be an important move, pointed out Freakley. "On an information-based battlefield where everything is moving rapidly and the information you have right now is perishable, how do you maneuver forces rapidly to take advantage of that information? You have to be motorized," he said.
One "lesson learned" in Iraq is that soldiers did not have enough vehicles. TRADOC responded to meet that shortcoming. Now, one battalion of the brigade will be able to be moved by a combination of trucks and Humvees, Freakley said.
"This is better than where we have been. Half of the infantry force in each BCT [is motorized], he said. "The end-state, in my view, would be to motorize them all." Again, the Army is running against time with this issue, because it has to recapitalize and repair vehicles damaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. There also is the matter of building new trucks, he said.
"Where we are going with motorization right now is good," he said. "But the question is, can someone produce a wheeled-vehicle variant that gives us the ability to move a squad on board the vehicle with a stabilized gun platform, Force 21 Brigade and Below-Blue Force Tracking in the cab and a hardened platform?"
Freakley asserted the infantry should have hybrid capabilities, ranging from the Bradley to the Stryker. "We are not always going to afford all of this. You have to look at affordability vs. capability," he added.
With those objectives in mind, the Army's experimental force, or XFOR, is examining novel tactics as well as equipment and its mode of employment, said Freakley. XFOR is an infantry company "that is well organized and trained," he said. It is made up of combat veterans, and "hand-picked leaders" trained "to core proficiency in their standard Army training tasks," he said, which can entail a great deal of repetition.
Based on the training results, the Army can determine whether it needs to change a unit's organization or equipment, he said, and then eventually determine how much specific changes affect the soldiers' capability.
XFOR provides a constant and steady force, instead of getting different units with varying levels of experience as was done in the past, he said. It often provides the tactics, techniques and procedures for the equipment provided by the rapid equipping force. The equipping force talks to troops in the field and helps produce quick equipment and technology solutions to their problems.
The experimental force can undertake any task, he said, from employing new weapons to exploring the notion of an air assault expeditionary force.
It recently trained with the Army's new XM8 rifle that is meant to replace the M16 and the M4 rifles. It also conducted a five-week simulation of the land warrior program, Freakley said. "We built in the soldier battle lab all the attributes of what land warrior might be, and then we had a platoon of XFOR fight for five weeks in different scenarios-in cities, in woods, in deserts-with different enemies," he said. After that, the soldiers provided their feedback, he said.
The four XFOR platoons are air assault, Bradley A3, Stryker and motorized. Freakley said he plans to keep soldiers in the company for at least two years.