ARLINGTON, Va. — It’s official: the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) will be the first Army unit to adopt the service’s most recent attempt to return to a unit manning personnel policy instead of the current personnel system of individual replacements.

Under unit manning, “you will have groups of people who will arrive together at unit and train together day-to-day through a standard 36-month tour,” Lt. Col. Paul Thornton, unit manning action officer, said in a prepared statement Monday.

“With the current individual replacement system, you constantly have new people come into the unit as others leave on a monthly basis — requiring constant retraining of individual and collective tasks to get the new soldiers up to speed,” Thornton said.

An Army official said Monday that the 172nd, based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, is “the ideal unit” to inaugurate unit manning, because the group is in the process of becoming service’s third Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Army officials are now reviewing which of the 172nd’s soldiers should stay with the unit through its Stryker Brigade transformation. Selected soldiers will be offered incentives to extend their tour, including cash bonuses.

Officials hope to minimize the number of soldiers who leave the brigade in 2004, when the 172nd is scheduled to receive the Stryker vehicles, and in 2005 when it undergoes initial operating capability testing, Thornton said.

After 2005, soldiers will be replaced every year in “packages” to sustain the 172nd’s unit strength, he said.

The Army has tried unit manning at the battalion level and with smaller units at least 10 times over the last 100 years, with varying levels of success.

Last fall, Army Secretary Thomas White pinpointed unit manning as a possible solution to revamping the Army’s personnel system. He has said he believes that individual management is disruptive and counter to unit cohesiveness and morale.

In September, White tasked Lt. Gen. John LeMoyne, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, to produce a fast-track study on unit manning. The study was completed in January.

LeMoyne then appointed Brig. Gen. Sean Byrne, who is director of the Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate, to lead the unit manning task force, which in turn suggested that the 172nd should be the first unit to adopt the concept.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fired White in April. His replacement has not yet been announced, although some Pentagon officials have suggested that Air Force Secretary James Roche will take the post.

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