At a time of budget cuts and fewer soldiers, the Army is testing the use of National Guard and Army Reserve units to round out larger, active-duty brigades and divisions to maintain readiness.
Twenty-seven units were selected to be paired up under the “Associated Units” pilot program that’s starting this summer.
As laid out by the Army, the Army Reserve’s 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, headquartered in Hawaii, could lose some autonomy — and possibly its famed liberty torch shoulder patch — in its alignment with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team at Schofield Barracks.
The 1st Battalion, 151st Infantry Regiment, from the Indiana National Guard, meanwhile, will be associated with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team at Schofield.
The new Associated Units pilot calls for Guard and Reserve units to report to higher-echelon active-duty units, but in a few cases the reverse will be true: Active-duty units will be associated with higher-level National Guard units.
“Much of America’s Army’s capacity is resident in the Reserve components, and we must rely more heavily on them to meet the demands of a complex global environment,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said in announcing the pilot March 21. “The Associated Units pilot allows us to leverage the capabilities and capacities of the active component, Army Reserve and the Army National Guard as one Army.”
The Army is scheduled to drop to 450,000 soldiers by the end of fiscal 2017 from a wartime high of 570,000.
Milley said in December that he needed a way to build up the force in a hurry, if necessary.
“So there are a lot of myths out there about the size of the force, training the force, that you can bring an Army down very, very small and then, in a time of crisis, add water, circle the wagons there and stir it up and we’ll have an army. It’s not quite that simple,” defensenews.com reported Milley as saying.
The Associated Units plan calls for paired-up units to train together before deployment.
If a Reserve-component battalion is associated with a larger, active-duty brigade combat team — as is the case with the 100th Battalion — the brigade commander assumes responsibility for approving the training program of the Reserve unit, the Army said.
The brigade commander also will assess manpower, equipment and resources requirements needed for the training. That means Scho-field’s 3rd Brigade would be calling the shots.
The Army gave the example of Georgia-based units that will become the first Associated Units. Task Force 1-28 Infantry, an active-duty unit, will be associated with the higher 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a National Guard unit. The 48th Brigade, in turn, will be associated with the active-duty 3rd Infantry Division.
All the soldiers will wear the shoulder unit patch of the 3rd Division, the Army said.
Maj. Olivia Nunn, an Army spokeswoman at the Pentagon, was asked whether the two Reserve units being matched with higher-level commands at Schofield would wear the 25th Infantry Division’s “Tropic Lightning” patch.
“Yes, these two units will be associated to the 25th (Division),” Nunn said in an email.
However, 1st Lt. Grace Vandertuin, a spokeswoman for the 100th’s higher headquarters at Fort Shafter Flats, the 9th Mission Support Command, said the 100th won’t wear the 25th Division patch.
“The 100th Infantry Battalion is the only combat arms unit in the United States Army Reserve,” Vandertuin said. “We are rich in our heritage and are authorized our own patch and we will wear our own patch.”
The 100th, which has more than 400 soldiers, will answer operationally to the 3rd Brigade at Schofield and administratively to the 9th Mission Support Command, she said.
The 100th-442nd, with its lineage tracing back to the highly decorated Japanese-American soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of World War II, was given special permission by the Army in 1955 and 1956 to wear the 442nd liberty torch patch.
The unit also won the right to keep its patch on a 2005 deployment to Iraq.
“The 100th has trained with the 25th (Division) in many events,” Vandertuin said by email. “Last year they participated in a Joint Readiness Training Center operation (at Fort Polk, La.) and are very compatible units.”
Both the 100th Battalion and 25th Division had little information about the new Associated Units program. How the Indiana National Guard will interact with Schofield 4,300 miles away is unclear.
Reserve component units selected for the pilot will conduct up to 15 additional days of training each year above the one weekend per month and two weeks of annual training, the Army said.
A “key element” of the pilot is the exchange of personnel between units — a small number of active-duty soldiers will go to the Reserve units and vice versa, the service said. The Army said the pilot will run for three years and then be assessed for expansion.
A prior Army experiment with National Guard “roundout” brigades in 1990 led to the activation of three units to aid active-duty Army units in the Persian Gulf War. However, the Reserve units were replaced in the war rotation by active-duty units and never deployed. The U.S. General Accounting Office subsequently found the replacement active units to be better prepared and better trained for the war duty.