Monday, November 09, 2015

Rotation is Nice. A Corps is Better

The Army is working on beefing up its presence in Europe. It isn't enough.

This is at least a move in the right direction:

Defense officials said NATO would avoid massive troop buildups and instead rely on ways to get smaller numbers of troops forward from the U.S. both during a crisis and to prevent tensions from growing into a conflict.

The Army currently has two brigades—of about 3,500 soldiers each—based in Europe. It has assigned one additional brigade in the U.S. to serve as a regionally aligned force that will rotate into and out of Europe. Gen. Milley said he would like to add more brigades to those rotating to Europe, and add attack helicopter units, engineering teams and artillery brigades.

Right now we have a Stryker brigade and a parachute brigade as our maneuver elements.

What General Milley needs rather than mere rotations is an Army corps with 5 brigades forward on the ground (see my article in that issue--and please note that I have no idea why they credit me with a PhD since at no time did I indicate that. I have a master's degree, in history. They published my email to them to correct that error in a subsequent issue of Military Review and for a time they corrected the online version, but the error has returned.)

Anything less than a corps isn't a real warfighting asset. We need more than a tripwire now.

Europe is useful for deploying Army forces not only for Europe but for an arc of crisis extending across Africa to Afghanistan, so I wouldn't put a heavy corps there that isn't strategically mobile.

Put XVIII Airborne Corps with a parachute brigade, a heavy brigade, a Stryker brigade, and a couple airmobile brigades as the forward maneuver elements of the corps--along with those supporting brigades Milley identifies.

I wouldn't deploy these units forward permanently as a rule, but would rotate battalions into eastern NATO states from their positions in central and western Europe. As long as the infrastructure in the east can handle an influx of NATO troops, that would be fine.

Although I'd pay good money to have an old-fashioned armored cavalry regiment in Europe in place of one of the airmobile brigades I suggest in order to at least rotate elements of that regiment to the Baltic states, with the ability to put the whole regiment there in a crisis.

With most of our forces in Europe lighter so they can also be projected into the arc of crisis, I'd build up unit sets for NATO heavy brigades in Poland--call it REFORPOL if you wish (in honor of the REFORGER sets we once had in abundance in West Germany during the Cold War).

Oh, and I'd heavy up any Stryker brigade intended for Europe duty.

And as NATO forces centered on the American armored cavalry regiment delay a Russian offensive into the Baltic states while building up heavy forces in Poland (and don't forget to pound Russia's ill-gotten gains in Crimea while we're at it) to prepare for the defeat of the Russian invasion force, we should gain control of the Baltic Sea in order to project and support heavied-up Marines into the flank of Russia's invasion.

Seventy years after we won World War II, we find that responsibly ending that war requires us to defend our gains. Being on the right side of history is hard work, as it turns out.