Ever since its activation at Fort Monroe, Virginia in 1973, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command has served the Army, the defense community, and the nation as an example of organizational adaptability and resilience.
Well before there was a TRADOC, its future headquarters location at Ft. Monroe endured two hurricanes in 1936 and barely avoided shutting down from the 1979 Base Closure and Realignment study. However, the combination of Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and BRAC 2005 sounded Ft. Monroe’s death knell as an Army installation.
The hurricane caused $100 million in damage to the post, and BRAC singled out non-operational administrative installations, such as Ft. Monroe, for closure and relocation of their functions elsewhere. Despite the double blow from nature’s wrath and Department of Defense’s reform efforts, TRADOC soldiered on.
During the next six years, from September 2005 to 2011, the whole of DoD underwent its fifth round of BRAC, with this iteration focusing as much on transforming the services organizationally as reducing their real estate footprint.
For TRADOC, its Maneuver Support Center served as the command’s model for establishing, in time, a total of 10 Centers of Excellence. Located at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, and the product of the 1995 BRAC, MANSCEN was composed of three branch service schools with an overarching command structure. The CoEs have been organized primarily around DoD’s warfighting functions—such as Maneuver, Fires, and Sustainment—to provide command and control for TRADOC’s 33 Army schools.
Apart from Ft. Monroe, no Army installation on which TRADOC performed a portion of its functions closed altogether, though moves of some iconic activities occurred, including the relocation of the U.S. Army Armor School from Ft. Knox, KY to Ft. Benning, GA (today’s Ft. Moore), and the transfer of the U.S. Army Ordnance School from Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD to Ft. Lee, VA (today’s Ft. Gregg-Adams).
Since 2011, TRADOC’s organizational landscape, with one major exception discussed below, has remained steady and has consisted of its Headquarters, relocated from Ft. Monroe to nearby Ft. Eustis, VA; the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavenworth, KS; the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, also at Ft. Eustis; all the CoEs; and numerous supporting centers and commands.
Throughout, TRADOC has operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to train and educate about 750,000 Soldiers and civilians annually for initial or continued service in the Army and for the nation.
During the Global War on Terrorism and since, TRADOC has confronted and weathered other institutional challenges while it also capitalized on new opportunities. After the unsuccessful fielding of the Future Combat System by 2009 to bring new units and materiel into the force, the Army implemented several organizational changes, including establishing the U.S. Army Futures Command in 2018, which partially reversed the Operation STEADFAST reforms that had created TRADOC to begin with.
This change was made to assist the service’s transition back to more conventional combined-arms warfare by focusing on the combat developments for air and missile defense, the next-generation combat vehicles, long-range precision fires, and others.
The 2020-2023 COVID-19 public health emergency contributed to the Army’s junior-enlisted recruitment challenge, which TRADOC is addressing through numerous enlistment initiatives. For example, the innovative Future Soldier Preparatory Course, which started in August 2022 at Ft. Jackson, SC, and has now expanded to Ft. Moore, GA, gets Army enlistees ready for instruction in the service’s ten-week Basic Combat Training at one of four locations.
Lastly, TRADOC has achieved three personnel firsts since spring 2021 with its first African American Commanding General; its first female Lieutenant General, who serves as the command’s Deputy Commanding General/Chief of Staff; and its first Tier 3 Senior Executive Service, lieutenant general-equivalent civilian Executive Deputy to the Commanding General.
In the end, training and education are only two of TRADOC’s primary missions. Another enduring major mission is writing and publishing the Army’s doctrine, which describes how the service conducts operations and fights on the battlefield.
The start of what became the Global War on Terrorism in September 2001 led the Army, in time and with TRADOC leading, to write and publish the counterinsurgency doctrine by which the service conducted the GWOT for about the next two decades.
At the same time, both the near-peer competitors of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation emerged, respectively, as the principal “pacing” and “enduring” threats to U.S. national security and global peace.
By 2010, the Army, again with TRADOC leading, began to conduct the studies examining the changing security environment, which led to new doctrine that has guided the Army’s gradual transition from COIN operations back to conventional or regular combined-arms maneuver and Large-Scale Combat Operations. Doctrinal milestones en route were AirSea Battle, Multi-Domain Extended Battlefield, and finally Multi-Domain Operations in both the 2017 and 2022 editions of Field Manual 3-0, Operations.
With continuing threats to global and U.S. national security, compounded by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, TRADOC’s value to American defense has endured for half a century as the command has rolled with numerous organizational punches while remaining agile, adaptable, and resilient. As always since TRADOC’s establishment: Victory Starts Here!