By Jennifer Mattson, NCO JournalJanuary 11, 2012
On Sept. 15, 2005, President George W. Bush signed the Base Realignment and Closure Act, turning the Department of Defense's recommendations to Congress regarding the future of the United States' military installations into a law. During the next seven years, the act would transform the Army by realigning and closing installations, creating training "centers of excellence" and orienting the Army toward power projection platforms. Throughout the BRAC process, NCOs played major roles in moving pieces, directing Soldiers and keeping family members abreast of the changes.
"The noncommissioned officer played a key role in [BRAC] because they were the ones who were responsible," said Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Hardy, command sergeant major of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga. "We're the ones responsible for executing the commander's vision and intent, and going back and providing recommendations as we continue down this path of executing our daily tasks while continuing to train and develop Soldiers, NCOs and officers."
The 2005 act is the fifth iteration of BRAC to be passed by Congress and signed by the president since the process was created in 1988. Overall, defense officials estimated in the 2005 BRAC report that they would see a savings of approximately $50 billion over 20 years. This round of realignments and closures was the first BRAC to consider realigning the operational and training forces in the Army instead of simply reducing personnel and property and consolidating efforts among the armed servcies.
While the Army was preparing to consolidate personnel, NCOs at Installation Management Command worked to make quality-of-life improvements at Soldiers' new homes.
"We placed Soldiers where services are more readily available, and our spectrum of services is more robust than in years past," said Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Ciotola, who was command sergeant major of Installation Management Command during many of the months preceding the BRAC deadline of Sept. 15, 2011.
The Army spent more than $15 billion in new construction and used American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars to improve the quality of life at each installation, Ciotola said. IMCOM command sergeants major helped build and manage operational facilities, motor pools, child and youth services buildings, barracks, roads, and hospitals to make installations experiencing an increase in personnel more efficient and family-friendly, he said.
IMCOM also started an initiative that partnered with private contractors to manage, build and maintain family housing on 85 percent of IMCOM's installations. This initiative helped to ensure adequate family housing at the installations where Soldiers were consolidating, Ciotola said.
Establishing centers of excellence
The 2005 BRAC recommendations created centers of excellence to improve Army training. These centers of excellence include: the Human Resources Center of Excellence at Fort Knox, Ky.; the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga.; the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, Okla.; the Sustainment Center of Excellence at Fort Lee, Va.; and the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
The centers streamline, enhance and improve training to reflect the way Soldiers work in either a deployed environment or to make commands more efficient at home.
The Human Resources Center of Excellence brought together Human Resources Command, Cadet Command, Recruiting Command and Accessions Command at Fort Knox.
Command Sgt. Maj. Bruce Lee, command sergeant major of Human Resources Command, said HRC was able to streamline its processes because the command is now in one location -- the Maude Complex at Fort Knox.
"[BRAC] was able to bring three different locations to one location," Lee said. "We were in Alexandria, Va.; St. Louis; and Indianapolis. BRAC was able to bring everybody under one roof -- our active and our reserve component, and our records and evaluation center."
The Armor Center and School relocated from Fort Knox to Fort Benning to co-locate with the Infantry Center and School and create the Maneuver Center of Excellence.
"The NCOs involvement was huge in the success of the Armor School's move to Fort Benning and the Maneuver Center of Excellence," Hardy said.
By being in one location, armor, infantry and cavalry Soldiers are able to come together in one training environment so that they'll appreciate one another's capabilities on the battlefield, Hardy said.
"(Previously,) there was a fight," Hardy said. "The infantry had one point of view, the armor had one point of view and if they didn't come together as they went forward to the next level, potentially both branches could lose out as the fight went out to the higher level. What we found was, when we brought the armor school and infantry school both under the [Maneuver Center of Excellence] at the higher headquarters, we've been able to mediate and do what's best for the maneuver force."
Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell oversaw part of the Armor Center and School's move to Fort Benning. He is now the command sergeant major of I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Training has to reflect the realities of the deployed environment, he said.
"All NCOs out there who are armor Soldiers, who think that they came in the Army to be a tanker or a Bradley fighting vehicle crewman, they have to understand that the enemy gets a vote; the enemies of our country get a vote on how we do business," Troxell said. "If the enemy is living in the mountains, in the palm groves and in the grape fields, tanks and Bradleys don't cut it there. You have to adjust your mind and get on the ground. The concept of warfare is the same whether you are mounted or dismounted. I've got to be flexible to get on the ground like my infantry brothers and get after the enemy to defeat them and to protect our nation."
The Air Defense Artillery School relocated from Fort Bliss, Texas, to Fort Sill after being at Fort Bliss since 1940. The ADA school is now co-located with the Field Artillery School, creating the Fires Center of Excellence.
Though the two continue to train differently, by being in the same location, they're able to introduce Soldiers to one another's capabilities, said Command Sgt. Maj. James Carr, command sergeant major of the ADA school at Fort Sill.
"We're still two different components," Carr said. "FA trains their Soldiers and we train ours, but there are some things that we're trying to work together. For instance, the Fires Center of Excellence has ADA and field artillery Soldiers working as one, and that's been the biggest change for air defense and field artillery Soldiers. We have the opportunity to work together."
By introducing the concept in the schoolhouse of working together, Soldiers will be able to take that knowledge to the battlefield, Carr said.
"When we go to war, we fight together," Carr said. "We call it 'from mud to space' -- and FA controls the mud, and air defense controls the space. We want to be able to coexist, and we want to be able to train on our equipment together because that's the way we fight, and we want to be able to train as we fight.
Since TRADOC has approved the Fires warfighting function, the colocation of both FA and ADA branches at Fort Sill allows us to learn, study and implement the fires doctrine, which is key to developing fires leaders."
Command Sgt. Maj. C.C. Jenkins, command sergeant major of the Sustainment Center of Excellence, said that by consolidating the Army's sustainment capabilities at Fort Lee the command has a better rapport with Soldiers. The Quartermaster School, Ordnance School, Transportation School, Soldier Support Institute and Army Logistics University came together to form the Sustainment Center of Excellence.
"We can now orchestrate a training process so that NCOs, officers and civilians within the Sustainment Corps understand sustainment, train them to the standards and send them out to the operational side of the house so that they can execute it at a moment's notice for any worldwide contingency," Jenkins said.
To accommodate the new Sustainment Center of Excellence, Fort Lee built an ordnance campus from scratch, an explosive ordnance disposal building, a new dental and medical facility, and a new tactical wheeledvehicle facility. In addition, Fort Lee is constructing the Army's largest lodge -- a 1,000-room hotel to accommodate the influx of new students. In 2005, Fort Lee had approximately 18,400 personnel working daily inside the gates; in 2011 that number has jumped to about 44,500.
Sustainment Soldiers will be ready for more than deployment, Jenkins said. They'll be ready to access key information by looking to Fort Lee as the hub for sustainment knowledge. Fort Lee has the needed equipment so warfighters can train, deploy, arrive on time and be resupplied, he said.
"The way we made the Army more efficient is simple," Jenkins said. "Now he Army doesn't have to look all over the world to get sustainment information. We have a state-of-the-art logistics university that's a part of Fort Lee; we have experts there in sustainment. If anyone comes to Fort Lee, or calls Fort Lee or goes on the Web, we can access them, help them, sustain them and bring them in for training."
Maneuver Support Soldiers -- military police; chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear Soldiers; and engineers -- now train at the same place since an earlier BRAC round in 1999 closed Fort McClellan, Ala., then the home of the MP and CBRN schools.
Since then, Fort Leonard Wood has experienced an influx of growth in maneuver support-related personnel and facilities, growing from one training brigade combat team to three training brigades and adding a new maneuver enhancement brigade from the 1st Infantry Division, which activated Oct. 16, 2008.
"NCOs basically run Fort Leonard Wood," said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Wells, command sergeant major of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence. "They don't lead Fort Leonard Wood -- that's the mission and duty of commissioned officers -- but they sure do run it. And we help all the regiments. Especially at the Maneuver Support Center, you will find yourself working in a particular section where you'll be sitting right beside a military policeman and a senior NCO who just happens to be a CBRN Soldier. And you'll be working on different projects
or the same projects.
"That's what NCOs do; they help in the integration piece to make the transition from wherever these regiments came from to Fort Leonard Wood to make it as seamless as possible," Wells said.
Power projection platforms
Not only did BRAC transform the way TRADOC conducted business, it also transformed the operational Army by creating "power projection platforms." Essentially, BRAC consolidated divisions at various installations including Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Carson, Colo.; and Fort Bliss. These power projection platforms enable divisions to train, deploy and redeploy in the same area, saving the Army from sending Soldiers to other locations for additional training by having that training available at the Soldiers' home stations.
"Forces Command is excited because, given BRAC, we've nested our combatant commands, our divisions, at very robust military installations, which also serve as military projection platforms," Ciotola said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey, command sergeant major of the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, said making Fort Carson a power projection platform has enabled the 4th Infantry Division to deploy out of one location with all of its assets.
"Fort Carson has always had a reputation for being a world-class facility for Soldiers and families to train and live," Dailey said. "But restationing with BRAC added a combat infantry division and all its assets, which required change -- major upgrades to facilities. Family support centers, deployment support centers, ranges and training facilities all had to be updated. All these things went through years of planning and preparation."
Fort Carson built two complete brigade combat team footprints in addition to facilities for support agencies, family support, post exchange services, gates and family housing to accommodate the increase of personnel due to BRAC.
"As we realign -- which we need to do to make our Army stronger, to conserve resources and funding, and to maximize our training capabilities at certain duty stations -- I think that it's a great movement toward the [Army Force Generation] concept, where we align divisions and their brigade combat teams so the brigades are with their divisions and they can manage their
training. And that all can be utilized under the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson," Dailey said.
By designating Fort Carson a power projection platform, the Army has made Fort Carson and the 4th Infantry Division more efficient by allowing Soldiers to receive their training at home station, especially when the operational tempo is high, Dailey said.
"[BRAC] has made us much stronger; we have realigned the division," Dailey said. "We have instituted a multitude of noncommissioned officer professional development procedures and policies. Fort Carson itself was a great benefactor in the first multicomponent noncommissioned officer academy, which was made up of the Army Reserve, the National Guard, and the majority by the active force.
"It is a very successful NCO academy we stood up. The division has come to Fort Carson and taken the lead on that effort. It has given the opportunity for those young Soldiers who are entering the ranks of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps to be able to deploy and return, get the needed training at their home station, and spend that valuable time with their families and not have to ship off. Previously we didn't have the NCO Academy there. We also bring the strength of the division and the division staff and all the assets and capabilities it has and can project to Fort Carson, so the division staff can reach out and touch these great schools."