By Susan R. AndersonJanuary 7, 2010
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Jan. 6, 2010) -- "In a relatively short period of time ... the role of the brigade commander, whether it's a BCT (brigade combat team) commander or an aviation brigade commander or other, has become incredibly more complex," said the Army's director of aviation.
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser discussed the growing challenges brigade commanders face at the Association of the United States Army's Aviation Symposium in Arlington, Va.
"We are asking them (brigade commanders) to have skills sets that, to be truthful, I don't believe we are training them to get to at this point in time," said Schloesser.
For example, "we talk about being able to put the iron on the tire, etc... but we have to be a part of the counterinsurgency efforts and not just part of the enabling efforts," he said. "So the challenge of the brigade commander is to figure out 'how can I help in counterinsurgency, how can I do both.'"
Fellow panelist and 159th Combat Aviation Brigade Commander Col. Jessie O. Farrington echoed those concerns when he discussed his most recent deployment to Afghanistan.
"We picked up initially a very kinetic fight, and I learned that you can't win the hearts and minds of people if you're [fighting] them every night, so we began being less kinetic, with some effect," said Farrington.
Part of the on-going challenge is changing how some commanders view their 12- to 15-month deployments, said Schloesser. They can't think of it as having a start date and an end state. "That's hogwash."
Everyone must understand that there is a continuum, from RESET, to training, to deployment combat, he said.
Col. Erik C. Peterson, also a member of the panel, described his own focus on a continuum while deployed.
Every day was an experience trying to synchronize all of the aspects of ARFORGEN -- the Army Force Generation process. Every failure to do that, was the loss of a training opportunity, said Peterson.
"The challenges the Army faces in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely not unique, but are challenges the Army will have to deal with well into the next several decades... and I don't mean that these are only wartime challenges, but challenges we will see throughout what I believe will be an era of persistent conflict," said Schloesser.
"It's going to be up to you all and all of us working together to make sure that Soldiers do all of this," to meet the growing challenges and do this is in a better way, he said.
Despite these challenges, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade commander and fellow panelist Col. Ronald F. Lewis described the resiliency he's witnessed in recently-deployed troops.
It's not like years ago when a Soldier's job was "X" then that's what he was, that's what he did every day, said Lewis. Today, Soldiers are forced to fulfill many different roles, he said.
"Their time in Iraq and Afghanistan is making them very, very dynamic, and very multifunctional," he said.