WASHINGTON (Army News Service) – The Army has officially begun the transformation of the first of two brigades at Fort Lewis, Wash., to initial brigade combat teams.
The new interim design will enable the Army to deploy brigades faster and be ready to fight upon arrival, officials said.
LTG Larry Ellis, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations, issued the execution order for the brigades April 3. The order to execute is a formal message from the Army staff to units in the field authorizing them to begin movement of personnel and equipment to the new configuration, explained an Army official.
Although the Army has been planning this transformation since October 1999, when Louis Caldera, secretary of the Army, and GEN Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff, unveiled the new Army vision, the order marked the physical start of moving soldiers, units and equipment to the new brigade design.
"This action is a milestone on the road to transforming the entire Army into a force that is strategically responsive and dominant at every point on the spectrum of operations," Shinseki said. "The transformation of these two brigades at Fort Lewis, using current off-the-shelf technology, will give us an interim capability as we move toward our long-term goal of the objective force."
The first two IBCTs will feature significantly different organizations from the Army’s current brigade structure, officials said. Each will consist primarily of three infantry battalions, an artillery battalion and a reconnaissance battalion. The reconnaissance battalion, known as the reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting and acquisition squadron – will significantly increase the intelligence-gathering capability of the brigade, officials continued.
As a first step, one armor battalion from 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division, will move to 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, and one light infantry battalion from 25th’s 1st Brigade will move to 2d’s 3d Brigade. These units are identified as the two initial brigades.
The shift aids the infantry requirements in the IBCT battalion for 3d Brigade and the RSTA squadron requirements for 1st Brigade, officials said.
The transformation of the initial brigade combat teams is the first phase of the Army’s three-phase strategy for transforming the current force.
The IBCTs, officials said, while providing an initial capability not currently in the force, will also serve to rapidly identify necessary changes in doctrine, organization, equipment, training and leader development required for the second phase, the interim force.
The interim force will consist of the two IBCTs at Fort Lewis and other brigades yet to be determined. This force will be fielded primarily with off-the-shelf equipment and technological advances, officials explained, and will provide immediate deployability and maneuver capabilities that bridge the current gap between the Army’s heavy and light forces until technology developments make it possible to field the objective force.
The final phase of the transformation, the objective force, will begin with fielding of a new generation of future combat systems, which are currently being defined and studied by the Army.
Besides the RSTA squadron, the new brigades will also include engineer, military intelligence and Signal companies in their design.
Another significant change, officials explained, is that the companies of the infantry battalions will be combined-arms teams, consisting primarily of medium armored gun systems, infantry and mortars.
Previously, Army companies and battalions were organized as pure tank or infantry units, then task-organized based on mission requirements.
The first IBCT to transform to the new design, 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division, is scheduled to achieve its initial operating capability by December 2001. IOC is the point at which the Army certifies the unit as being capable of accomplishing brigade-level operations, officials explained. The second IBCT, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, is currently scheduled to achieve its IOC by December 2002.
Soldiers and units at Fort Lewis have already started training to develop the tactics, techniques and procedures for the new IBCTs. Soldiers are training with light armored vehicles on loan from Canada, pending selection and fielding of the interim armored vehicle later this year.
The IBCT is designed to enable the brigades to conduct operations across the full spectrum – from small-scale contingencies such as Bosnia and Kosovo – to major theaters of war. Their improved strategic deployability will provide a viable deterrence capability that doesn’t currently exist, officials said.
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