U.S. Soldiers to 'Go Native' on Operations

13.04.2013 17:23

The nautical flavor of the
president's new foreign policy
and an end to two ground wars
in the Middle East has left many
wondering what the Army will do
with itself in the coming years.
America's premier land force
faces the challenge of remaining
relevant in a world where
enemies no longer send tank
columns to follow up on formal
declarations of war. This identity
crisis is further hampered by an
excruciating budget season
where all service branches have
to accommodate sequestration
cuts on top of ever tightening
purse strings.
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So the Army has adopted a new
motto of sorts: "Projecting a
credibility that prevents
conflict," to capitalize on the
notion that nobody picks fights
with the biggest guy at the bar.
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel and
the military services unveiled
their fiscal year 2014 budget
request on Wednesday. The Navy
gets the largest piece of the pie
with $156 billion to build ships
and precision weapons and a
shift of its focus to Asia.
The Army gets $130 billion. Its
main adjustment is its war
budget, or "overseas contingency
operations fund," which in 2008
matched its base budget for wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has
not yet finalized the OCO for this
year, but will likely be down to
about a third of the base.
It has also adopted a new
strategy, similar to one employed
for decades by its Special Forces,
of aligning troops to a specific
region with which it can get
Soldiers assigned to these
Regionally Aligned Forces
overseas will now receive
training in local languages,
culture and geography, and learn
more about indigenous military
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"This budget envisions the
capabilities that enable the
global employment of Army
forces in tailored, scalable and
responsive packages to meet
unique and independent
requirements of the geographic
combatant commanders," said
Maj. Gen. Karen Dyson, the
Army's budget director, on
The U.S. Army Training and
Doctrine Command was
instrumental in developing this
new approach. Lt. Gen. Keither
Walker, TRADOC deputy
commander, said in February the
Army has been pushing for this
kind of training but until
recently has been hampered by
its presence in Afghanistan.
This is a similar tack to the U.S.
Army Special Forces, whose
primary mission has always been
to infiltrate, embed with and
train indigenous forces to help
fight America's enemies. Seven
Special Forces groups based in
the U.S. each have a region of
the world in which they are
"The Army is beginning to
regionally align its forces with
the goal of increasing both the
quantity and the quality of
forces available to combatant
commanders," according to text
within the FY 2014 Defense
Budget Overview. "Simply
described, the Army will align
units with specific geographic
combatant commands based on
existing assignments,
relationships established through
the State Partnership Program,
or anticipated demand."
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The regionally aligned forces will
include active duty soldiers,
reservists and members of the
National Guard, according to a
March 2013 Army Operations
information paper obtained by
U.S. News . The SPP is a National
Guard program that links up with
foreign troops to open up
dialogue and trade advice and
"Regional alignment will improve
the Army force's versatility,
responsiveness, and will be
consistently available to support
combatant command
requirements for planning and
executing theater campaign
plans," the report says. This
training will allow leaders to
work more closely as advisors
and mentors with partner forces
which "will better prepare
soldiers to appreciate their
surroundings and to work more
cohesively with their host-nation
Qualified soldiers will also be
able to work more closely with
U.S. embassies, where they will
not have to catch up on regional
sensitivities before undertaking
security missions.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team,
1st Infantry Division out of Fort
Riley, Kan. is the first unit
undergoing RAF training to be
deployed to U.S. Africa
Command. A deployment could
last for roughly a year, according
to an Army release, and would
involve military exercises,
disaster relief and training host-
nation forces. Civilian
contractors currently conduct
much of this work and the Army
says its RAF alternative will be 40
percent cheaper for AFRICOM.