FORT HOOD, Texas (Feb. 17, 2016) -- Armies have to be adaptable. They have to be capable of changing themselves in response to the evolution of warfare, and the U.S. Army has been in a state of change since 2003 when it began to move toward a modular design.
In keeping with that evolution, armored brigade combat teams have been redesigned in large part because of personnel changes the Army is experiencing, and the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team ( "Greywolf," 1st Cavalry Division, is the first unit on Fort Hood to assume the new design.
"As we reshape the Army, primarily some of what's driving this is force structure," said Col. Matthew Van Wagenen, commander of the 3rd ABCT. "We're at 490,000 personnel, and we're heading toward 450,000. So the Army's had to look at the design of all the formations, but ABCTs were the first one."
The new model requires adjustments to units and equipment.
"The brigade will lose two infantry companies, but we also gain some capacity inside of the formation," Van Wagenen said.
Company B, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment was deactivated in December, and Company A, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, is scheduled to deactivate in March.
Along with shedding the two infantry companies, the brigade's reconnaissance squadron - 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment - expanded to a larger-sized element and gained a tank company in the form of 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment's Company D.
The majority of the Soldiers from the units that either moved or deactivated will be transferred to units across the installation.
"Anytime you have Soldiers assigned to a unit that have got to move out, because of force structure it's not necessarily something we like to do, but it's a necessity, as really all the ABCTs begin to downsize," Van Wagenen said.
On its face, it appears that the Army is merely shifting its assets from the right hand to the left hand, but in actuality, the expectation is that the Soldiers moving to other units are going to fill vacant slots, slots that would have been filled by Soldiers moving here from other installations.
"But those Soldiers aren't coming here, so eventually we'll reach that equilibrium where all the Soldiers that would have come, but didn't because they were replaced internally, will equal out with the all the people we have here, so that's where it actually evens out," said Capt. Kellen Petersen, brigade planner and native of Sweet Home, Oregon. "We are striving to maintain capabilities across the formation while still meeting the Army's need of decreasing the force."
Through natural attrition, any overages in personnel strengths will balance out.
A lot of decisions have been made regarding how to assume this new design, but being the first gave Greywolf Brigade a unique opportunity to pave the way.
"The brigade is fully modernized, and we'll be the first brigade to be so, well ahead of the rest of the Army," Van Wagenen said. "Some of the decisions we've made here in structure have informed the rest of the Army on what to do."
But the real test of this structural change will come when the brigade takes this new configuration into the National Training Center later this year.
"I think the significance of it is we will be one of the first ABCTs to show up at NTC under the new configuration, under the new triangle redesign, and really at that point in time test that structure," Van Wagenen said. "What does it look like in a combined arms maneuver-wide area security role? What are the differences comparatively to the old structure? I think what you're going to find is it's just as capable, although we have two less companies, there's an enhanced reconnaissance structure that I think will offset some of the losses in force structure."
While the Soldiers of the brigade conduct the business of transferring equipment and cutting orders for Soldiers going elsewhere, they are carrying much of the weight of this transformation. The unit says Greywolf is leading the pack in terms of modernization.
"There's definitely a heightened workload, but it's important that Triangular Design gets done and that we get our formations set as fast as we can," Van Wagenen said. "It's a lot of work on our maintainers and our sustainers, as the Army redistributes, and I think Greywolf has led the Army in this."