Looking into the future of the Phantom Corps, its commander, Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, said it will continue to answer the nation’s call to fight and win. And, he said with confidence, III Corps will be ready.
“The Phantom Corps will continue to remind folks around the world that we stand for something. That our uniform represents two things, and that’s ‘hope and fear.’ It’s hope for the downtrodden, the oppressed, those people that need a better path. And it’s fear to our enemies because they know we will prevail,” Funk said in an email, as he is currently deployed with III Corps Headquarters doing just that in the battle against the Islamic State. “It is incumbent upon us to tell the story, to explain why we are America’s Hammer, to show why our commitment is to each other and to our nation, to show why it matters, to make it matter, and to help people understand that our sacrifices are for the good of our nation.”
Funk’s predecessor, retired Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, joked that III Corps looks pretty good for celebrating 100 years. “It doesn’t look any older than it did when I first joined in 1982.”
With his final Army role as deputy commander of Training and Doctrine Command, MacFarland said the future of the Army is represented in III Corps.
“It is the force that separates the U.S. Army from all other forces in the world. It’s the most powerful war-fighting organization, par none,” he said. “The modernization of that force is essential to the Army’s ability to remain relevant to the battlefield and future competitors.”
To prepare for the battles of the future, III Corps is participating in the Army’s goals to lead its entire force into the future. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, a former III Corps and Fort Hood commander, has outlined three specific areas of focus: readiness and training, modernization and reform.
A new four-star general command will activate to help make these goals a reality. Known as the Army Futures Command, it will work to improve the Army’s acquisition system and speed up innovation. Leaders of the command will prioritize six areas of modernization — long-range precision fires, next generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, the network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.
While the location of this command will be in an urban center away from a military installation — three of the 14 proposed locations are in Texas — III Corps and its subordinate units could still play a role in the command’s work, said retired Col. Keith Sledd, executive director of the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance.
“You could see where Fort Hood could potentially be involved. It most likely could have a role in testing and working with the development of the next generation combat vehicle by either the Army Futures Command or the Department of the Army,” he said.
Sledd added the process might look similar to when the 4th Infantry Division was part of testing Force 21 in the late 1990s and early 2000s while it was still a part of Fort Hood.
“It spread across the Army so quickly because it was tested here at Fort Hood,” he said. “In early 2001, we did a huge National Training Center rotation that tested the Force 21 system out there, and followed it up with big command post exercise. I could see something similar to that happening.”
Another Army initiative that could impact III Corps is the creation of Security Force Assistance Brigades, also referred to as SFABs. The Army has said it will stand up six of these brigades — five in the active Army and one in the reserve forces — that are comprised of senior officers and noncommissioned officers with previous experience in their positions. The brigades will then deploy on train, advise and assist missions around the globe. In April, the Army hosted a recruiting event for future brigades at Fort Hood, with nearly 1,000 soldiers in attendance at each of the four presentations.
The first SFAB was activated last year at Fort Benning, Georgia, and is currently deployed to Afghanistan. The second will activate at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and the locations of the next three have yet to be announced. Fort Hood is a prime location for such a brigade, and during a recent visit to post, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper hinted it is in consideration.
Regardless of what sort of units may land under III Corps command or threats that loom in the future, Sledd agrees with Funk that America’s Hammer is ready and asked to strike. “In my opinion, I think you will see the corps … always involved in whatever contingency or major operation is going on,” Sledd said.
While ongoing participation in Iraq and Syria is not defined, he added that the threat of potential adversaries with similar capabilities remains an ongoing possibility. “III Corps can provide capability across a whole footprint that other units don’t have capability to do,” Sledd said.