By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (May 31, 2013) -- Globally, and across the total force in fiscal year 2013, the Army could engage in nearly 6,000 different activities, in more than 160 countries, and involving as many as 60,000 Soldiers and Army civilians as part of its "regionally aligned forces" concept.
Brig. Gen. Kimberly C. Field, with Army G-3/5/7, spoke May 30, during a media roundtable at the Pentagon to provide an update on the Army's regionally aligned forces, or RAF, concept.
The general said regionally aligned forces can include Army capabilities in direct support of combatant commanders, or COCOMs, every day. They also include personnel and units assigned to a theater, U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. European Command have the bulk of these.
Regionally aligned forces also include those units in an "allocated" status, given to a combatant commander for a specific mission for a specific period of time and under his direct control, Field said.
"Regionally aligned forces are also the other capabilities that support the combatant commander, but are Army-service retained," Field said. "These are individuals and small teams providing reach-back support or on regular temporary duty missions to a region, or conducting contingency planning for the combatant commander."
As the Army draws down from the Middle East, from Afghanistan, Field said the service will likely increase its efforts with RAF.
"We are working hard to respond to the increasing complexity of the global security environment," she said. "By deliberately aligning forces regionally, the Army meets the enduring needs of COCOMs in a way that ensures responsiveness, consistent availability, and a higher level of training and expertise."
In April, the Army provided regionally aligned forces to U.S. Africa Command to support the East Africa Response Force there. Stationed in Djibouti, 129 members of the 2-1 Infantry Division are ready to respond as needed to the security of U.S. facilities in Africa, Field said.
"It really was a directive from the Secretary of Defense to look forward, look at these areas that might have a Benghazi-like situation that could happen again, and to pre-position forces to do that," Field said. "They arrived in April. They train and they stay ready to be able to respond to these crisis."
The Army total force, including the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard, specifically the State Partnership Program, will provide some 4,500 personnel to the continent in order to conduct 660 activities in 34 countries in support of the combatant command in fiscal year 2013. Most of these forces are based in the continental U.S. until they are needed.
Field said aligned forces in Africa have already been involved in providing training support to Nigeriens who are part of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali, for instance.
"We've deployed trainers to Niger, and are working with the Department of State, and we did that on fairly short notice," she said. "And then there are the smaller things. There are 37 smaller familiarization exercises, one of which, an example, is training Ugandan military police for route security. There are a range of activities."
The Army is also discussing with the Department of State the idea of providing training support for the United Nations Mission in Darfur.
In fiscal year 2014, Field said, a brigade combat team from 1st Cavalry Division will provide "European Rotational Force" support to U.S. European Command, and will be dual-hatted as the NATO response force. Additionally, III Corps will be aligned with U.S. Central Command.
Right now 1st Corps is already aligned with U.S. Pacific Command, while the 18th Airborne Corps remains in "global" alignment as the Army's global response force.
Also in fiscal year 2014, the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, with the National Guard, will be regionally with U.S. Southern Command. The unit is preparing now to send Soldiers to Guatemala to mentor and advise military forces there on command and control operations, logistics, communications, and small unit tactics. About 166 Soldiers will participate.
THE RAF PAYOFF
Field said the goal of RAF is to provide better support to COCOMs by providing them with forces prepared with cultural, language and specific mission capabilities that match up with a commander's particular region of the world.
Those forces will help COCOMs address mutual threats and interests with partners; build capabilities of partners so they can handle things themselves; and increase influence and ability to have access if needed.
Regional alignment leverages the great strengths built in the past ten years of war, Field said.
"It is a fundamental orientation different from other drawdown periods," She said. "We are staying externally focused, leveraging all we have learned about the human terrain and what strategic landpower means and we're building on this."
While the Army is looking in the future to "habitually align" both division and corps-level headquarters with a particular COCOM in order to provide each geographic combatant command a JTF-capable headquarters, Soldiers themselves will likely pass through several units during their Army careers, each unit aligned to a different COCOM.
Field dismissed the idea that the cultural and language training provided to a Soldier when he is aligned with one unit will be wasted when he moves on to another unit. Simply participating in that type of preparation is a payoff for the Army, she said.
"We will give Soldiers who are aligned for that year some culture, some language, some expertise," she said. "We think the biggest benefit in regional alignment, to the cultural and language aspect of this, is that you now have a force that is much more culturally savvy. [A force] that can get on the ground in a foreign environment and can quickly get situational awareness, situational understanding, a better understanding of the problem they have to solve, and then come up with solutions."