By Gary SheftickOctober 4, 2016
WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- The operations tempo for Army units today is just as high as it was a decade ago during the height of deployments to Iraq, according to the Army's top operations officer.
Although fewer troops are now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Soldiers are participating in approximately 60 exercises this year in Europe, along with many other exercises in the Pacific, Africa and elsewhere around the world, said Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the Army's deputy chief of staff, G-3/5/7.
Anderson provided a force posture, readiness and Soldier support overview Wednesday, Sept. 28, to leaders of veteran service organizations and military service organizations who were visiting the Pentagon.
A total of 189,490 Soldiers are currently supporting combatant commands in over 140 locations worldwide. In addition, exercises and combat training center rotations also take Soldiers away from home, he said.
"Stress to the force is just as bad as it was back in 2005, if not worse," he said.
The time divisions spend deployed compared to their time at home station is currently at a ratio of 1:1. "Every division headquarters is either deployed somewhere, getting ready to go, or just got back," he said.
The brigade combat team ratio is currently less than the desired 1:2 for boots on the ground, or BOG time, compared to dwell time at home, he said. It's about the same for combat aviation brigades, Patriot missile battalions and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense or THAAD units. All are in high demand and typically spend less than two years at home station before deploying for a year.
The Army has been trying to achieve the 1:2 BOG ratio for more than 10 years, Anderson said.
"The demand is not going down," he said. "And of course we're getting smaller at the same time, but demand is staying the same if not increasing."
In addition to units deployed, a number of other units are currently dedicated to homeland defense and supporting Northern Command, he pointed out.
"This is a constant drumbeat," Anderson said.
Multi-component incident response teams support NORTHCOM, such as units ready to help with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives, known as CBRNE missions, if incidents were to occur.
"The bottom line is we are a strained force," Anderson said.
People may think that, just because they don't hear about operations in Iraq and Afghanistan like they used to, the Army is not as engaged as it was back then, Anderson suggested.
"You may not see the flash to bang on TV, but the bottom line is, the numbers are the same," he said.
A total of 56 brigades of all components are currently in the inventory, the same number as required to meet defense planning guidance.
"We are now taking a harder look" every month at what Army-level missions to prioritize to ensure the Army has adequate capacity to meet the missions ordered by the Secretary of Defense, he said.
Another initiative the Army is pursuing to alleviate the stress on the force is the creation of Security Force Assistance Brigades, or SFABs, that will conduct ongoing advise and assist missions.
Advise and assist missions to train Iraqi and Afghan security forces are currently being conducted by regular brigade combat teams. Those missions will probably continue for some time to come, he said.
"The question becomes, how do you build that capability without breaking a brigade combat team?" he asked.
The answer is to build an organization that is specifically tailored for that mission, he said. The SFAB headquarters will be staffed with officers and NCOs who are specifically tasked with the mission to train other forces.
Two of these units will be established by 2018 and one will deploy by 2019, he said.