Army alters training of reserves Earlier deployment, small units stressed

September 05, 1991|By Richard H. P. Sia | Richard H. P. Sia,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- The Army's top commander, drawing on lessons of the Persian Gulf war, announced yesterday that the service will refocus its efforts to train and equip Army Reserve and National Guard forces by giving greater preference to units designated for early deployment in future wars.

Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, the Army chief of staff, told a National Guard Association convention in Honolulu that combat training in the guard and reserves also will be changed so that more attention is paid to individual and small-unit skills.

These and other changes will be aimed at improving the integration of active-duty and reserve forces in wartime and assuring that the reservists will be well prepared to carry out their missions, he said.

"Some [guard and reserve] units will be more ready than others because they are required earlier," General Sullivan said. "Manning levels and other resources will be adjusted to correspond to the unit's relative position in the deployment scheme."

The text of his remarks was released by Army officials at the Pentagon, who described the chief of staff's announcement as the latest step toward a wide-scale restructuring of the Army to deal with the post-Cold War era.

Army planners have been looking ahead to fielding a 25 percent smaller military force by 1995 and the likelihood of fighting sudden, fast-paced regional conflicts rather than a protracted war in Europe against the Soviet Union.

Army leaders already have begun to change a basic tenet of the military's "total force" policy that required Army combat divisions to go to war with certain guard and reserve units. National Guard brigades that missed the gulf war because they needed more time in desert training will lose their front-line war-fighting role to active-duty units and assume a secondary role as "early reinforcements," Army officials said in April.

The brigades, which were supposed to augment or "round out" the active Army divisions in the gulf, were activated in November, but their post-mobilization training revealed glaring deficiencies in leadership and readiness.

"We were not perfect . . . and everyone associated with the mobilization of these brigades -- the total Army -- learned a great deal," General Sullivan said yesterday. "We cannot -- must not -- kid ourselves. The challenge of preparing large combat organizations to fight is formidable."

He added, "We must not confuse willingness to serve, the combination of courage and patriotism, with unit combat readiness."

Mastering the Army's battlefield tactics at the brigade level, including the ability to synchronize air and ground activities, is a daunting task for the guard and reserve, he said. Given past difficulties, the "primary training focus" of combat reserve forces in peacetime will be on individual soldiers, crews, squads and platoons, the general said.

"We live in a new world, and we do not need an Army structured for the old world," General Sullivan said. "The lessons of our history are also clear: We must reshape the 'total force' in keeping with the world in which we live. What remains must be trained and ready."

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