Army Structure; from 3-Brigade Division Units to Units of Action
At the Pentagon, briefings routinely begin with the old adage that
"the only thing constant today is change." Since the age of the Cold War, the United States Army has faced change at home and abroad, experiencing not only a massive transformation in technology and infrastructure, but also in the worldwide approach to warfare. As the end of front-line battles gave way to urban streets and insurgency, the Army transitioned its structural paradigm to mirror the rapidly shifting needs, abandoning the Three Brigade Division Units for Units of Action.
This organizational shift had roots in Capitol Hill politics and dissent internal to the Pentagon, but was a desperately needed restructuring to meet the needs presented by the Iraq War, vastly different than those experienced during the Cold War history. In the early 1950s, the Soviet forces overwhelmed many of the Western nations, and the U.S. Army planners decided that, if American forces were to gain strength with ground forces in the future, they would have to exhibit superior mobility and increased firepower.
This firepower would come from atomic weapons, which provided superior tactical and logistical mobility that would allow for the defeat another army even numerically greater. This new tactic, which began in early 1953 and 1954, brought the first delivery of atomic weapons to Europe. Only two years later, in 1956, two infantry divisions were replaced by one airborne unit and one armored division; this first happened when the 11th Airborne Division replaced the 5th Infantry Division in early 1956, and was followed by the replacement of the 4th Infantry Division in Frankfurt in May of 1956 by the 3rd Armored Division.
Later that same year, the Department of the Army proposed a plan of reorganization, adapting infantry, armored, and airborne divisions to atomic warfare. The new plan, called the Pentomic Concept, was approved for Army-wide implementation as designated in November by the USEUCOM, which first allowed for the transformation of the Seventh Army divisions. The 11th Airborne was accordingly restructured into five major battle groups, all "completely air transportable," to fall in line with the new organization pattern.
Of the other four divisions in Europe, the 2nd Armored Division and the 10th Infantry achieved restructuring by the first of July 1957; the 8th Infantry Division by the first of August, and the 3rd Armored Division by the first of October of the same year.
The new structure of the Pentomic Concept meant the loss of one 155-mm and two 105-mm battalions in the infantry division, but some units gained. The infantry division also lost a regimental tank company, but with more than 100 tanks, the blow of the loss was cushioned well; additionally, the reconnaissance company was replaced with an armored cavalry battalion. Strongly on the receiving end of the transformation was the single composite unit, comprised of one 8-inch howitzer, an Honest John, and two 155-mm howitzer batteries, increasing firepower capabilities. Additionally, six 90-mm antiaircraft artillery battalions switched to Nike missile systems, and the USAREUR reorganized their honest John batteries into well-maintained battalions.
The massive overhaul of the system achieved a near victory in concept. Ultimately, the restructuring success meant that the Pentomic units, capable of fighting a nuclear war, would also be a fearsome enemy in a conventional battle as well.
The 1960s brought a changing political scene with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the birth of Vietnam; as a result, the military was forced to proactively adapt to the changing marketplace of battle. The fast-moving sea of international politics precluded a static concept of combat division, and the preemptive restructuring of the Pentomic system still demanded further attention. "Although the pentomic divisions were effective combat units," military historian D.J. Hickman provided, "experience, as well as examination of the world situation and of military requirements, disclosed areas in which significant improvements could be made."
The refocusing lens provided by world events shed light on the improvements that could be made in the American military organization. "By the early 1960's, world events focused attention on the fact that Army combat forces faced a wide range of possible situations."
Among these, the emerging strategy of "flexible response" was proving not only to be the most popular but also the most viable. If combat units would have to be tailored to meet the demands of specific situations, their tactical mobility and firepower would have to match the environment, enemy, and shifting technological structure. As discussion gave way to actualization, the Reorganization Objective Army Divisions (ROAD) strategy was designed, allowing for specific and varied strategic requirements.
Despite ongoing efforts to pursue development of American nuclear capability, the new emphasis on the requirements of limited wars proved wise. The Seventh Army divisions were reorganized under ROAD in 1963, after a vast amount of preparation to reequip it with stronger technology. The ROAD concept required the complete mechanization of combat units in major equipment, outlining a major mechanized overhaul of the Seventh Army, which had an M48 tank, M59 armored personnel carrier, and M74 and M. 51 tank recovery vehicles.
While many of these machines were still functionally useful, they were also developed during and before the Korean Campaign and technologically hackneyed in modern battle.
The new equipment began arriving by the load two years before the USAREUR was able to incorporate it fully. The September of 1961, the Seventh Army units were issued their first shipments of the M-14 replacing the M-1, the carbine, Browning automatic, and Thompson submachine gun.
The additions of the M60 battle tank and the M113 armored personnel carrier supplanted their earlier prototypes; they were faser lighter, and where necessary, more accurate. A shoulder-fired M70 grenade launcher provided for a medium-range capability left open by the maximum-range hand grenade and the low-range mortar. The units were outfitted in ways that further protected the soldiers and providing a more fearsome enemy in battle; previously discovered holes were augmented, and the army brought its units up to the modern-day needs, even adding a nuclear-capable Davy Crockett.
During 1962, the new supplements continued to arrive in Europe and undergo extensive tests gauging viability and utilization specifics. The USAREUR troops put the new machinery under scrutiny and added to their ranks the new French-designed Entac anti-tank missile, Iroquois helicopters, and Mohawk aircraft. In 1963, the physical aspects of the ROAD divisions were complete, and the time for conversion arrived; the USAREUR was forced to complete this process seamlessly so as not to jeopardize its combat readiness, and as a result, most of the machinery was not only on-hand but largely already issued.
The total conversion, which began in February, was converted in 30 days, marking a new era for the structure of the Army, a timely standard for expedience, and a burgeoning epoch of highly technical battle.
The ROAD organization provided USAREUR with a modern and flexible with which to equip the forces. Each new division now consisted of a base and a varying mixture of combat maneuver battalions, either tank, mechanized infantry, or airborne, while in Berlin, the straight infantry battalions saw their final days. The new bases contained all the elements that would be required by any division, including command, control, artillery, a support command, and the three brigade headquarters. These units were identical in base structure, while their equipment, organization, and methods of operation were now capable of varying by mission. Likewise, the battalions all had a basic structure organized and equipped to provide mobility, firepower, and combat capabilities in shifting environmental variables.
The need for change was exaggerated in this massive transformation, totally shifting the terrain of American-executed warfare. The new mechanics mixed with old needs to provide a coherency to the military unit; the mechanized infantry battalion equipped with was a source of lightweight, armor-protected, cross-country mobility and the air borne battalion was adaptable to a wide range of environments. The overall effect was the tactical mobility suited to the European and other international environments that provided a near-match to the Soviets, other enemies, and the NATO nations.
The Army, looking seriously at its military capabilities, began funding introspective critical analysis of their provisions. By 1982, the analysis of the combat existed inside the AirLand Battle concept and evolved into the Division-86 force structure.
At this point in time, the Army still focused its efforts in Europe, which both the government and voting public viewed was key to national security. The rising Division-86 structure focused on standardized heavy division, combining both armored and mechanized infantry divisions, and making the maximum use of new equipment.
The Division-86 proposal maintained much of the flexibility so valued in the ROAD structure. The biggest change occurred within the new heavy division, which totaled about 20,000 officers and enlisted soldiers. The system changed with the new structure, switching the basic composition of the structure to include one Headquarters and Headquarters Company and3 Brigade Headquarters. Additionally, it mandated one Military Police Company, one Signal Battalion, one Air Defense…