Originally created 06/27/04

Streamlined brigade awaits return to Iraq



SAVANNAH, Ga. - As the 3rd Infantry Division rolled toward Baghdad, Spc. Jorge Hernandez's role was fairly straightforward.

"My job was to shoot as many rounds as possible," said Spc. Hernandez, a howitzer operator.

But with a return trip to Iraq looming later this year or in early 2005, things will be different for the division.

Instead of winning a war, soldiers will be charged with helping to maintain a tenuous peace.

"We'll be walking the streets," Spc. Hernandez said. "The important thing will be to keep yourself alive. It will have a lot to do with public relations."

While the mission might not yet be clear, the Army has a new plan - and is recasting its basic units of operation - to deal with its emerging role in the global war on terrorism.

This week the soldiers and supplies for the new 4th Brigade Unit of Action for Fort Stewart's 3rd Infantry Division were finally lined up and ready to move.

The brigade cleared an important hurdle, according to Maj. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., when the Army ceremoniously activated the newly combined units Friday.

New equipment and hundreds of soldiers have started to pour into Fort Stewart, rounding out the brigade's manpower and resources needed for the division's return to Iraq.

Though the formation of a new brigade might seem like more Army bureaucracy, the move is meant to make the soldiers more capable of performing their latest mission.

That mission is more than just a return tour to Iraq. The Army is retooling to face terrorists on a global front with a force that's leaner and swifter, more confident and more flexible.

"Tankers are going to have to realize that they could go to Iraq and never see the inside of a tank," brigade commander Col. Edward C. Cardon told soldiers, officers and guests at Thursday's ceremony.

Soldiers could be assigned to patrol streets, hunt out insurgents or take on any number of other tasks when they return to Iraq.

"Every soldier is going to be a real soldier," Maj. Gen. Webster said this week. "The soldiers are infantrymen first."

Before, when a commander called with specific needs, the Army was structured to answer in one way.

"Any response would be with a division," Maj. Gen. Webster said.

Moving division units and components required a great deal of communications and logistics - and often a bit of time.

A brigade can respond rapidly in comparison, Maj. Gen. Webster said.

Now the Army has combined the capabilities of previously distinct units - which were spread across an entire division - under the umbrella of a brigade.

The brigade commander won't have to send requests up and down the command structure. He will be able to make a decision and use the brigade forces close at hand.

The 4th is also known as the vanguard brigade, a term designating troops moving at the head of an army or the forefront of a military action or movement. That's exactly the case here, as the Army plans to learn from this model.

At this vanguard level, the 4th will have at its disposal some of the traditional units, such as artillery battalions.

It also will have more reconnaissance capability, signal operators, military police, heavy infantry and even a new battalion that combines signal, military police, logistics and military intelligence in one battalion.

As that battalion was activated Thursday, Col. Cardon said, "To be honest, we're still sorting out their mission."

That's how the Army has to be during war, sorting it out as it goes along, learning its lessons and coming up with a new game plan or additional training to incorporate that experience.

"We're leading the way," Maj. Gen. Webster said. "There's no doctrine on that."