by 1LT Dallas Powell Jr.
In recent months the Army has implemented its multicomponent-unit concept in the headquarters and staffs of various combat-support units. The 93d Signal Brigade – an active-duty, echelons-above-corps brigade located at Fort Gordon, Ga. – is no stranger to this relatively new strategy. Since October 1999, 23 of 89 total positions within the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company are slotted on its modified table of organization and equipment as National Guard or Reserve. Although the brigade still successfully accomplishes its demanding missions, transforming the headquarters from full active duty to partial Reserve/Guard has presented some challenges.
While the number of full-time headquarters and staff personnel has dwindled, the brigade’s overall operational tempo has increased since its activation in March 1998. The 93d is one of the Army’s two worldwide-deployable, contingency, theater, tactical-Signal brigades. It consists of two continental-U.S.-based deployable battalions, a forward-deployed battalion in Puerto Rico and a Signal-support activity in Miami. The 93d’s missions include network planning of joint, combined and Army strategic and tactical networks, plus employment of 40 percent of the active Army’s tactical theater command-and-control communications capabilities supporting contingency-communications requirements.
More specifically, the brigade provides mission support to U.S. Army South headquarters and deployed forces in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility – namely, Central and South America and the Caribbean. In the last two years, the brigade has deployed communications assets dozens of times to Latin America on various missions, including natural-disaster relief efforts, nations-building exercises and peacekeeping-operations exercises. Most of these deployments consist of small communications teams from the fully active-duty battalions and rarely require headquarters-staff personnel.
When 93d was activated in 1998, it took control of 63d Signal Battalion and 67th Signal Battalion – which are located at Fort Gordon but were previously under the command of 11th Signal Brigade at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. The C2 problems 11th Signal Brigade experienced necessitated activating 93d Signal Brigade, whose original design was to be fully staffed with active-duty soldiers and then transition to multicomponent status after two years. According to LTC Janet Zimmerman, 93d’s deputy brigade commander, who will soon retire from active duty, the transition occurred a few months ahead of schedule.
"Many units use the term multicomponent," she said, "but 93d Signal Brigade is unique in that it’s ‘multicomponent/blended’ – it makes use of Active Guard Reserve personnel as well as drilling Guardsmen and Reservists."
AGR soldiers and officers currently fill five of the 23 National Guard/Reserve positions on HHC 93d Signal Brigade’s MTOE. One of those positions is the new deputy brigade commander, LTC Stephen Jurinko. Jurinko has spent most of his 30 years’ Army service in the Pennsylvania National Guard and took 93d’s two-year AGR position in September as his first active-duty assignment in 26 years. He recently commanded 28th Signal Battalion, 28th Infantry Division (Mechanized), of the Pennsylvania National Guard.
"One of the tenets of the multicomponent unit is to integrate the Guard and Reserve in the Army’s warfighting capabilities," Jurinko said. "With 28th Infantry Division scheduled to command Stabilization Forces [Rotation] 12 in Bosnia in October 2002, I believe my knowledge gained by working in a theater-level Signal unit will add to the 28th’s success in its mission."
|LTC Stephen Jurinko, 93d Signal Brigade's deputy brigade commander, during a recent field exercise. Jurinko is a U.S. Army Reserve officer.|
One of the brigade’s automations officers, CPT Grashawn Dorrough, came to the brigade in June. Dorrough is a Reserve AGR officer who came from Recruiting Command in Jackson, Miss., and has prior active-duty time as a platoon leader in 63d Signal Battalion.
"The presence of the brigade headquarters in close proximity to the battalions is a vast improvement in the command support the battalions receive," Dorrough said. "Also, the multicomponent concept gives all components necessary interaction with each other. As an AGR officer, this unit affords me a unique opportunity for professional development."
One of the intricacies of this experiment is personnel management. Almost every soldier or officer comes from a different Reserve or Guard command, and quite often their personnel-management systems differ from the Active Component system. These challenges are met by taking care of personnel issues such as pay, leave and strength reporting through each individual’s applicable command structure.
Another challenge is distributing the normal workload among the remaining full-time staff. While there’s normally enough work for Reserve/Guard soldiers to perform on drill weekends, since Fort Gordon is an active-duty post not much can be accomplished except during the week. The partial solution to this is that some soldiers perform their drills during the week whenever possible. Occasionally some staff sections might shift their daily work schedules to accommodate their drilling soldiers.
"Another very real challenge is that due to society’s tendency toward mobility, many professionals move for increased opportunities – and a significant number of drilling soldiers move closer to the Augusta area for its convenience to post," Zimmerman said. "However, while 93d offers a uniquely rewarding telecommunications environment and provides diverse opportunities for professional development, there’s often little career progression available for Reserve/Guard soldiers. Most available positions are unique to a specific military-occupation specialty and grade; once a soldier gets promoted, there usually aren’t any more slots in the brigade available to him or her, and he or she must move on to another organization."
Zimmerman added that some of the slots requiring drilling soldiers also require long, technical training. All too often, soldiers holding these technical MOSs are in short supply in the Reserve/Guard structure, and the MOS training is too long for a drilling soldier to attend.
Although deployments are rare for AGR, Guard or Reserve personnel, they all work and train alongside their active-duty counterparts, to include time in the field. The brigade chaplain, chemical officer, S-1 and S-3 plans sergeant major – all drilling Reservists or Guardsmen – frequently schedule their weekend drills to coincide with field exercises to maximize the training benefit. According to MAJ Douglas Linton, the 93d’s active-duty S-3, the 93d "treats full-time AGR soldiers no differently than any other active-duty soldier."
One soldier, SFC Manuel Robles, recently retired from his Reserve AGR position as the brigade’s S-3 plans and operations noncommissioned officer. "Robles was invaluable as our primary action officer for unit-status-report reporting," Linton noted. Unfortunately the brigade hasn’t yet found a replacement for Robles.
Other important positions are also still empty. Because of the brigade’s real-world-mission optempo, active-duty soldiers not only conduct their own work but also fill these positions. Two critical positions with an immediate need of personnel are the brigade’s materiel-management officer and S-3 plans officer – both AGR captain slots. Because of 93d’s critical mission, the brigade has worked closely with the Guard and Reserve commands to expedite filling these slots, as well as other drilling soldier positions. Another necessary AGR slot that was recently vacated is the S-3 systems-control officer.
The multicomponent concept is the way of the future for units like 93d Signal Brigade. The real challenge is to find the optimal blend of Reserve, Guard, AGR and AC soldiers so the staff is most advantageous for all components – and especially for the brigade’s successful accomplishment of its mission. The brigade’s commander, COL Keith Snook, said he and his staff "enthusiastically support the multicomponent-unit concept and we actively address these challenges. … Meanwhile, the soldiers and officers of this brigade continue to exceed the standard in accomplishing their ongoing missions. All our multicompo staff – whether they’re drilling Reservists, Guardsmen or full-time AGR soldiers – are true 93d Lightning Warriors in every sense."
1LT Powell, the former assistant brigade S-1 and public-affairs officer for 93d Signal Brigade, is attending the Signal Captains Career Course at Fort Gordon. Previous assignments include S-6 for 202d Military Intelligence Battalion and platoon leader in 63d Signal Battalion, both at Fort Gordon. He holds a bachelor of science degree in business from Upper Iowa University. His eight years of prior-enlisted service were spent as a Russian linguist in Germany and at Fort Riley, Kan. Powell is slated for promotion to captain Jan. 1, 2001.
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