An M1A2 Abrams tank crew from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, heads to the first battle position to commence firing during the company's gunnery in December 2016.

Army photo by Staff Sgt. Leah Kilpatrick

Fort Hood would be the ideal location for at least one of the new security force assistance brigades the Army is in the process of establishing, according to a former Fort Hood and III Corps commander.

The Army will stand up six of the new brigades, which will be staffed by 500 officers and noncommissioned officers — far fewer than a normal Army combat brigade, which can have 4,000 or 5,000 troops.

The first is scheduled to be established at Fort Benning, Ga., in October, said Army spokeswoman Maria Njoku.

Njoku gathered information on the new brigades for the Daily Herald. No decisions have been made on where the remaining brigades will be located. The brigades will be staffed by seasoned soldiers trained for advise, assist and train missions.

“There are tons of reasons to bring one of these brigades to Fort Hood,” said retired Lt. Gen. Paul “Butch” Funk, a Gatesville-area resident who commanded the post in the mid-1990s. “We have the capacity, a great training area — which will only get better — and we have the leadership here. I have no idea where these brigades will go, but I can think of a thousand reasons to bring one here.”

The Army is continuing analysis for the stationing of the additional planned brigades, Njoku said. The units will be designed as a modular capability to be employed by combatant commanders as required.

“At home-station, they may get oversight from a division or corps, based on guidance from the Army Command to which they are assigned,” she said. “It will take about a year to train a unit up to full operating capability so that it can deploy to assist a combatant commander.”

Resourcing the brigades is expected to fulfill some of the advise and assist requirements currently being executed by brigade combat teams, she said. The first one is expected to be ready for deployment by the end of 2018.

After years of Army downsizing, the Army’s combat brigade teams — including the four based at Fort Hood — have been heavily utilized to provide a presence in areas where the Army formerly had a permanent presence, such as Korea.

The 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team is currently on a nine-month rotation to Kuwait, with elements of the unit assisting Iraqi allies in the fight against the Islamic State. In February, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment returned from a rotation in Afghanistan, where the 1st Cavalry Division’s headquarters element is currently deployed. In early 2016, the division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team replaced its sister brigade, 2nd “Black Jack” Brigade Combat Team, for a nine-month rotation to Korea.

An Army News Service story published in February explained that the new brigades will have no junior enlisted soldiers. They will instead be staffed with 500 senior noncommissioned officers and officers who will have the expertise to help train foreign militaries.

“I suspect they would be put into the rotation to combat zones,” Funk said. “I think that’s where the idea for these was spawned, would be my guess. Soldiers won’t be sitting around idle and leaders can focus on the mission at hand. I think it’s a smart idea.”

Col. Brian Ellis, maneuver division chief in the directorate of force management at the Pentagon — who led planning for the new brigades — said the effect on the Army will be three-fold.

“First, the Army will more effectively advise and assist foreign security forces,” he told the Army News Service. “The second is to preserve the readiness of our brigade combat teams by reducing the need to break apart those formations to conduct security assistance missions.”

The set up will preserve brigade combat team readiness for full-spectrum operations.

The third role of the new brigades is to help the Army more quickly regenerate brigade combat teams when needed. If the Army needs another combat brigade, for example, junior soldiers would fall in on an existing security force assistance brigade already full of senior NCOs and officers. Having a pre-built command structure in place would significantly speed up the process of generating new brigades, Ellis said.

“I hate to say it, but if we had something really bad break out, such as a large-scale war, we’d immediately have the cadre to form full brigades,” Funk said. “Having the organization in place reduces the time to train a full brigade — something Fort Hood would have the resources to do. I think they should put at least four of them here — we could handle it with no problems, although, I don’t make the decisions anymore.”

dbryant@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7554

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