Pentagon: Division Commander Plans for 'Test Bed' in Afghanistan
News in Balance:
FORT DRUM, N.Y., Oct. 9, 2009 -- As he focuses on supporting the current fight in Afghanistan, the new 10th Mountain Division commander said he also intends to volunteer his soldiers to serve as an operational test-bed for the Army’s long-term modernization efforts.
Army Maj. Gen. James L. Terry said one of his first big challenges will be determining the best way to support the Army’s new campaign continuity plan.
The plan, which the Army announced the same day Terry took command here early last month, calls for elements of three divisions to deploy to Afghanistan on a rotational basis. The goal, Army officials say, is to better capitalize on their knowledge of the combat environment to which they are returning – experience critical to effective counterinsurgency operations.
The plan impacts the 82nd Airborne Division, 101st Airborne Division and 10th Mountain Division. The 82nd Airborne headquarters, currently in Afghanistan, is due to be replaced by the 101st Airborne headquarters in the spring of 2010. Terry and his 10th Mountain division headquarters staff are slated to replace the 101st in the spring of 2011.
As the third division headquarters in the deployment queue, the 10th Mountain Division has more time than its sister division headquarters to evaluate the effects of the new plan and recommend the best way to implement it, Terry told American Forces Press Service.
“I think it is incumbent on us, because we are third in the order of movement and will have about 18 months of ‘dwell time’ back here as a division headquarters, to find out what this actually means, and then inform [U.S. Army Forces Command] and our Army leadership as to how campaign continuity actually fits,” he said.
That includes looking toward the 82nd headquarters to see if there’s some way the 10th Mountain can support its current deployment, he said, and determining if the 101st headquarters needs any help getting ready for its upcoming deployment.
Army Col. Joseph Dichairo, Terry’s chief of staff who’s handling the nuts and bolts of the effort, said he expects to interact far more closely with his sister division headquarters counterparts and to share more information throughout their deployment cycles.
“You’ve heard the term ‘over the soldier,’” he said. “With this concept, I can see us being virtually embedded with the 101st, much earlier in the game than we might otherwise.”
Terry said he sees the long-term benefits of the campaign continuity plan in enabling units to build long-term relationships, not only with the Afghan people, but also with Afghan security forces and provincial district leaders.
“It is just a good way of doing business,” he said. The general noted that both he and his division command sergeant major previously served in the area they will return to – Terry as deputy commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force 76, part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, and Army Command Sgt. Maj. James Redmore, as sergeant major for one of the division’s brigade combat teams.
The headquarters’ 2011 deployment will mean “falling back on the same terrain,” Terry said. “I think there is a lot of goodness in that.”
But for the campaign continuity plan to work, Terry said some bugs still need to be worked out. “Frankly, we at the division level are still trying to figure out what this will mean for us and how the Army Force Generation cycle, or ARFORGEN, fits into this new model,” he said in an open letter to the Fort Drum community.
Dichairo noted some other issues to be explored. Will the Army amend its command tours and other manning practices to better fit with the new plan? Where does the equipping piece fall into the equation?
“General Terry has tasked me in the division to figure out what those impacts are for the Army, because we are the first guys to have two years at home and one year deployed,” he said. “So we are already starting to jot down notes of how all of this is going to fit together.”
Meanwhile, Terry is exploring ways to use his 10th Division soldiers as a potential test-bed for concepts he explored at the Army Capabilities Integration Center at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Terry, who returned for his third tour with the Mountain Division after leading up the Fort Bliss center’s Future Force Integration Directorate, said he can think of no better unit to test some of the most revolutionary concepts and systems being developed for future warfighters. The Army recently wrapped up a limited user test of several pieces of high-tech equipment being developed under the new Brigade Combat Team Modernization effort.
Soldiers from the Army Evaluation Task Force at Fort Bliss participated in the 23-day evaluation, but Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. wants to begin fielding the equipment to infantry brigade combat teams beginning in 2011.
Terry said he’s got the troops to do it. “The chief of staff of the Army has decided to focus on infantry brigade combat teams, and we just happen to have four of those in the 10th Mountain Division,” he said.
These soldiers will be deployed to Afghanistan exactly when the rollout is expected to begin, Terry said. “So I think we ought to be the first unit to get that capability package,’ he said. “I think our infantry brigade combat teams stand a good chance of getting those, and then deploying with them to Afghanistan.”
Terry said he’s excited about the additional situational awareness the new systems will provide soldiers throughout the chain of command so they’re able to make more informed decisions.
“I am of the opinion that our tactical activity at the squad, platoon and then company level in today’s fight is how we achieve operational-level objectives,” he said. “If our soldiers are better informed when they make decisions, especially as we protect the population, it allows us to more precisely conduct operations.
“At the end of the day, it is how we will win the campaign.”
(Report by Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service.)