Monday, December 4, 2006

Square, Triangular, and Modular Madness

Modularization of Army divisions is a reversion to a type of organization last used in combat in the Spanish-American War which also was the last war before Desert Storm in which mobilized Guard and Reserve troops were not incorporated into the Army of the United States which was a single structure covering all components. The US Army combat division came into being in the run up for the Great War (WW1) with an organization called the “Square Division” of 27,000 men (40,000 with attached elements) consisting of two brigades of two regiments of three battalions of four companies each (48 companies compared to a ten battalion division today of thirty companies). The Square Division was replaced in the run up for WW2 in a formation more familiar today with three regiments of three battalions of three companies each. The brigade structure with two regiments disappeared but the two BG brigade commanders stayed on as Assistant Division Commanders.

The triangular division came in two types: Armored and Infantry. The armored division had three “Combat Commands” instead of regiments and the battalions of the division were attached to Combat Commands as needed. This structure later became the “ROAD” division applicable to all divisions during the Kennedy Administration and is the one being phased out now.

After the Korean War, the thought was that the new battlefield would be a nuclear “atomic” battlefield which was thought to need smaller and more nimble units than the regiment and a new “Pentomic” division was born with five “Battle Groups” of five companies each was born. The Battle Group was commanded by a Colonel which left no command positions for Lt Colonels, which fault doomed the Pentomic. The return to a triangular division structure added at least ten O-5 command slots at the expense of two O-6 slots. The new modular brigades fixes the O-5 problem and gains back the missing O-6 positions as well as ending the dominance of the Armored division by moving the Armor School to Ft Benning.

George Marshall organized the Army in the field into two kinds of battalions, divisional and non-divisional, plus headquarters companies to manage all sorts and manner of battalions. This structure served us well from WW2 through Vietnam and was designed to be adaptable to all manner of mission, enemy, terrain, and weather. All that was required was the task organization by attachment to fit what was needed. It worked in desert mechanized war, jungle war, trench war, and counter-insurgency war.

Characterizing the “cold war” division as solely designed for fighting the Soviet hordes on the plains of Germany and in the Fulda Gap is misinformation if not disinformation. The so-called revolution of precision munitions and sensorized battlefields and netted intelligence systems were fielded and used in Vietnam, set aside for the resumed Cold War which was suspended for Vietnam, and rediscovered in Desert Storm. But the triangular division transcended all that change.

The rush to field modular brigades without figuring out what the fielded combat and combat support structure has tasked the organizational abilities of the commanders in the field more than was needed. This has been exacerbated by the resistance of the Pentagon to mobilize the requisite structure as organized and trained for thirty years as that structure was predominately in the Army Reserve and National Guard. The Pentagon has preferred to send civilians and contractors paid from Operations and Maintenance funds (O&MA) instead of Guard and Reserve troops on Military Pay (MPA) funds.

Unfortunately, the units and their command structures included certain critical functions relevant to the conquest and stabilization of unstable states such as the logistical command and control structures (movement control centers, material management centers, rear area operations centers) and the military police, civil affairs and psychological operations commands that would have protected the lines of communication, preserved the structure, treasures, and order of the state (Iraq and Afghanistan), and facilitated the establishment of a stable government. The fact that the Active Component has just established Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations as branches is testimony to the realization of that error.

A return to the structure of the Army of the United States (AUS) would have been far more efficient but would have required the usual messy Reduction in Force procedures to flush out those pesky Guard and Reserve combat vets from amongst the ranks of True Warriors. And, most importantly keep them from retiring with a twenty year retirement.

On the bright side, those missing O-6 positions have been restored.

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