Schoomaker: Army Transformation Underway
The ArmyÃ¢€™s Stryker Brigades have proven their worth and shown the effectiveness of some of the serviceÃ¢€™s new policies, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker said. “The extraordinary performance that the two Stryker Brigades that we had in Iraq are going to be legend in my view,” Schoomaker said at an Association of the U.S. ArmyÃ¢€™s Institute for Land Warfare breakfast Jan. 14. Stryker brigades, noticeably equipped with the family of wheeled, armored Stryker vehicles, built by General Dynamics [GD], are, for example, implementing the ArmyÃ¢€™s stabilization policy that keeps soldiers with a unit longer than in the past, reducing turmoil and churning while improving readiness.
The 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division also reflected how stabilization can help units, Schoomaker said. The unit, based in South Korea, went to Iraq, arriving “trained and ready to fightÃ¢€¦and performed magnificently from the moment they arrived in theater.” The service offered soldiers incentives to stay another one or two years with the division, and some 9,600 have volunteered. Previously, Schoomaker said 40 percent of the soldiers permanently changing stations were associated with manning in Korea.
Stryker units also showed the benefits of integrated systems, he said, moving more than 400 miles from Mosul to Najaf in 48 hours, fighting two battles along the way. This is the operational agility and capability the Army wants and is promoting with its modular organizational changes. The 1st Cavalry Division right now has 62 battalions, he said. A two-star division commander is operating like the future Unit of Employment-Experimental (UEx), he said. The division is joint and integrated. The 62 battalions are what the Army used to think about as Corps, and itÃ¢€™s operating for the joint Multinational Corps-Iraq, he said. “WeÃ¢€™re talking about the face of how we operate and the flattening of the organization that we see powered by the kind of information technologies we have,” Schoomaker said.
The Army now is working on three major areas. The first is to move units into standardized modular formations, which have shown their worth and the utility of connectivity in combat. The Army has made 13 brigades modular. Additionally, the service added three brigades in 2004. “The Army now has 36 active brigades moving towards 39 this year,” and is ahead of schedule, Schoomaker said. The second effort is rebalancing the active and reserve components to offer readiness and provide depth. Schoomaker said more than 40,000 of some 100,000 spaces have been adjusted, reducing structure in the guard and reserve to have fully staffed, whole units. Other adjustments have addressed imbalances in military occupational specialties.
The third effort is soldier stabilization, an ongoing effort.
I’m more interested in organizational issues than weapons systems but the news on Stryker is encouraging. I was highly skeptical of re-visiting the motorized infantry concept but it’s working in Iraq, in what would seem to be a much less than ideal environment for wheeled vehicles. The modularization move is long overdue; it’s welcome news that the early experiments are going well. Rebalancing the active and reserve components is also long overdue.
Schoomaker’s tenure has been quite remarkable. Rumsfeld, who coaxed him out of retirement, deserves kudos for his selection.
Update: Kevin Drum and commenter DC Loser note that former Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki deserves praise for spearheading Stryker. True enough. While I was generally a fan of Shinseki, I was critical of the “interim force” concept in general and Stryker in particular. The former struck me as too tepid a move and Stryker was very much in the “been there, done that, didn’t work” mode. The early reports out of Iraq, though, have been glowing.
One of Kevin’s commenters, though, points to a report entitled, “Fundamental Concerns About The StrykerÃ¢€™s Capabilities In Combat When Evaluated Against Lessons Learned From The Conflicts In Afghanistan, Iraq And Elsewhere” [PDF] at the Defense and the National Interest site. I don’t know the organization’s provenance but Chuck Spinney, a reputable defense analyst, is apparently behind much of it and the sources cited appear quite legitimate at first blush.