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Army Chief Says Force Gaining Flexibility, Agility

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2004 – The Army has an "extraordinary opportunity" to transform its forces to respond to "one of the most dangerous times in our history," the Army chief of staff told Congress July 21.

Gen. Peter Schoomaker said the Army has more than 600,000 people mobilized and on active duty supporting the war on terror, in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee. In addition, he said the Army is adding another 30,000 people through recruiting and retention, "growing the Army as fast as we can grow the Army" to increase this contribution.

While increasing the force, Schoomaker said the Army is focused on teaching leaders and soldiers to think quickly on their feet when confronting challenges, rather than relying on prescribed doctrine. This requires agility both organizationally and intellectually, he said.

"The strength of a football team isn't the play that's called in the huddle and how well everybody knows the playbook," Schoomaker said. "The strength of the team is when you get to the line of scrimmage and the ball gets snapped and what happens when everything changes.

"That's the difference. And that's the kind of Army we need."

Schoomaker who played for the University of Wyoming in the 1968 Sugar Bowl -- likened today's soldiers to players at one Super Bowl who stepped out of their traditional roles to win the game. "You might remember that the guy that caught the winning touchdown pass there happened to be a linebacker that they put in at the tight end," he said.

"That's the kind of force we need, where you've got this kind of agility organizationally and you've got this kind of intellectual agility" to anticipate and confront situations that arise.

This capability will increase the Army's ability to provide "relevant and ready land combat power" to combatant commanders and the joint team, Schoomaker said.

"It's very clear that this nation needs this Army to be able to fight sustained major land combat. And we are not going to uncover that capability," he said. "But we also must be more like panathletes and decathletes and be able to deal on a very high level with other situations (and challenges) that we will face."

The Army's transformation effort is designed to promote this type of flexibility, he said. Among its major components is a move to modular, capabilities-based units flexible enough to adapt quickly to the missions they face and more unit stability.

Schoomaker said the Army's personnel system in which 296,000 individual soldiers moved within a year, 40 percent of them to support manning requirements in Korea left the service at a huge disadvantage. "Fundamentally, we're disadvantaged from developing the kind of cohesive teams that we need to introduce into combat with stable leadership cadre and with trained and equipped crews," he said.

"What we are doing is forming stabilized units of enormous capability that will stay together, train together and fight together in ways that allow them to operate in a professional sense at a very high order."

In summary, Schoomaker returned to his football analogy. "You can have the best players in the world, but if you're going to play a long game, you'd better have the ability to keep doing it," he said, "and not run out of gas in the third quarter.

"And part of what we have to build into our Army is the capability to meet the commitments that we're going to have in the 21st century," the general pointed out. It's critical that this be done in a way that "will sustain us," while enabling the Army to maintain a volunteer force that continue to live up to its status as a "force of excellence."

Contact Author

Gen. Peter Schoomaker, USA

Related Sites:
House Armed Services Committee
Defense Transformation

Related Articles:
Schoomaker Says Army Transformation on Track

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