New elite Army unit will develop tactics to battle insurgents
SCHWEINFURT, Germany — Capt. Matthew Archambault led an infantry company through a long, hard year in Iraq, fighting a maddeningly elusive enemy who could stop a tank with a $200 bomb.
The frequent frustration of battling guerrillas piqued Archambault’s interest in hearing about the Asymmetric Warfare Group, an elite new Army unit whose boosters pledge will be at the cutting edge of counterinsurgent warfare.
“We fighting a conventional conflict with an asymmetrical enemy,” Archambault said Wednesday after hearing the group’s recruiting pitch. “A lot of things a conventional unit can’t do, this unit is trying to address.”
Archambault was one of 21 officers and noncommissioned officers who turned out to hear team member Brian Jennings talk about the unit. Jennings is in the first week of a three-week recruiting tour of combat arms units in Europe. He said he gets about 200 e-mails a day expressing interest in the group.
“They want to be part of an organization deployed to counter these specific [insurgent] threats,” Jennings said. “They want to see how their individual contribution helps the war on terror.”
The unit was created last year as an extension of the Improvised Explosive Device Task Force, which was itself started to counter the threat in Iraq from roadside bombs.
Jennings is taking applications from NCOs in the pay grades E-7 through E-9, and officers O-4 and O-5. No one in the unit or its support staff will rank lower than E-5.
“It’s a very top-heavy unit,” he said.
The group is standing up at Fort Meade, Md., with new quarters and new equipment, Jennings said. About one-third of its members are civilians, all of them retired senior NCOs.
The centerpiece of the unit, Jennings said, will be its rapidly deployable field teams made up of active duty and retired E-8s and E-9s who will respond to emergencies such as kidnappings or car bombings around the world. The team members will be trained in advanced marksmanship, post-blast analysis, and catastrophic crime-scene investigation. They’ll work with military intelligence agents, the CIA and special forces.
The exact mission, Jennings said, is still being determined.
“It’s a very vague mission statement. We need out-of-the-box thinkers,” he said. “We’re in a position where we can make changes right away for the whole Army.”
A weeklong assessment course at Fort Meade, slated for October, will be a basic fitness test, mental evaluation and commanders’ board exam. Jennings said it is challenging, but nowhere near as physically demanding as Delta Force.
“Door-kickers and trigger-pullers should put in their applications to Delta Force,” said Jennings, a former member of the elite unit. “We’re not doing Delta’s mission. They’re the best in the world at what they do.”
Unlike other combat units, women are eligible for the team. One female officer already is serving, Jennings said.
“It’s very interesting, from an intelligence standpoint,” said one female captain, who requested anonymity because her command didn’t know she was attending. “There’s a lot of great opportunities to study your craft.”
“It’s something where I can make a different kind of contribution geared towards fighting the kind of fight we’re fighting,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Kelly of the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, who returned last spring from Iraq.
Briefings about the Asymmetric Warfare Group are scheduled as follows:
Sept. 1: 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. (Würzburg)
Sept. 6: 9:30 a.m. (Wiesbaden); 1:30 p.m. (Dexheim)
Sept. 7: 9:30 a.m. (Friedberg); 1:30 p.m. (Giessen)
Sept. 8: 9:30 a.m. (Wiesbaden); 1:30 p.m. (Hanau)
Sept. 9: 10 a.m. (Baumholder)
Sept. 12-14: (Stuttgart, no times available)