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(Click here for a graphic showing the new structure.)

ARLINGTON, Va. — The long-awaited Army master plan detailing the locations of its units “finally get[s] our footprint right,” Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody said Wednesday.

The plan is “the largest restructuring of your Army since 1939,” Cody told Pentagon reporters. “If we took a clean map, we would do this.”

Although Army officials have discussed many of the details of the Brigade Combat Team restationing plan before, marked the first time the scheme was laid out in its entirety.

The contrast between the map of today’s Army units and the map showing the placement of the 43 Brigade Combat Teams and division and corps headquarters that will make up the “transformed” Army is clear:

The current map is a hodge-podge of mixed divisions and brigades, with many of the Army’s 10 divisions split and scattered geographically. Some, such as Germany’s 1st Armored Division, have brigades on different continents.

The map of the future, in contrast, is tidy and uniform. With a few exceptions, divisions and their brigades are in the same place, with entire installations marked as either “heavy,” or “light.”

Army leaders developed a plan in 2002 to turn what were 13 different kinds of brigades, each with its own support structures, into just three: Stryker, light, and heavy (see details below).

There also will be 11 aviation brigades, separate from the BCTs, each of which will include two attack battalions, an assault battalion, a general support battalion, and then a maintenance battalion, and a brigade headquarters, Cody said.

The different pieces of each aviation unit “will be interchangeable amongst any one of the brigades,” Cody said, so “they will be used as task forces to support whatever requirements we have.”

The Army also is planning to standardize division headquarters, which have been tailored to variously focus on European, Southwest Asia or Korean peninsula war plans, Cody said.

By making each type of BCT and headquarters the same, commanders will, in wartime, be able to “mix and match” without worrying about special logistics needs or holes in capabilities, Cody said.

Two ongoing initiatives played a role in the location scheme, Ray Dubois, special assistant to the secretary of the Army, said Wednesday: the Integrated Global Presence and Basing Strategy, which is bringing some overseas units to the United States; and the Base Realignment and Closure process, designed to eliminate what the Defense Department says is excess U.S. base capacity.

Shifting from the old organization to the new while coordinating with BRAC and the requirements of the global posture changes will entail a “complex set of chess moves,” Dubois said.

The transition process will require entire units will “re-flag,” or change their names, and many individual soldiers will “re-patch,” or change their parent unit at a given installation, Dubois said.

Also, some overseas units who are deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan will “restation” as they rotate back; notably the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, based in South Korea, which is now in Iraq and will return to Fort Carson, Colo., instead of Korea, Dubois said.

The reason for all the reshuffling of units and patches, Dubois said, is “to reduce permanent change of station [PCS] moves and … give more stability to the Army soldiers and their families,” Dubois said.

Despite the complexity of the process, by 2007, “90 percent of this will be done,” Cody said.

The three kinds of brigade ...

Heavy Brigade Combat Teams

(armor and armored cavalry)

Number of troops: 3,800

Key equipment: Abrams tank; Bradley Fighting Vehicle

Purpose: Dominate the battlefield using overwhelming firepower.

Advantages: Good in open spaces; against foes that continue to employ Cold War-style armies and tactics, such as North Korea or Iran.

Disadvantages: Difficult to move to battle, usually requiring railheads and ships; requires enormous logistics capabilities (high “tail to tooth” ratio) to support; “doesn’t do mountains,” in the words of retired Gen. Colin Powell; not suited for urban fights or against small groups of mobile, unconventional foes (e.g., terrorists).

Light Brigade Combat Teams

(includes infantry, air assault and airborne units)

Number of troops: 3,500

Key equipment: Helicopters; Humvees; anti-tank missiles; mortars; machine guns

Purpose: Fastest to get to a fight. Troops can parachute in, fast-rope from helicopters (air assault) or arrive by air transport. Soldiers carry most of their equipment into battle.

Advantages: Good in territory where maneuver is difficult (e.g., mountains); fast-moving fights; deeply complex urban terrain (high buildings; narrow alleys.

Stryker Brigade Combat Teams

Number of troops: 3,900

Key equipment: Stryker wheeled combat vehicle

Purpose: Midway between heavy and light forces, with advantages and drawbacks of each. The Stryker is used to get troops to key locations in a hurry to surprise the enemy.

Advantages: Good in villages and urban and semi-urban areas with lots of open, paved roads. Armor on vehicles makes them well suited for road patrols with a high likelihood of insurgent attacks with improvised explosives or mortars.

Disadvantages: Like any compromise, Stryker units have the potential to do everything — sort-of well. Critics say Strykers are “too light to fight and too heavy to run.”

— Lisa Burgess

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