Rumsfeld Calls Army Brigade Combat Teams Important to Transformation
By Ann M. Zetterstrom
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORT LEWIS, Wash., April 24, 2002 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says transformation is more than an objective, it's a state of mind.
"Transformation is an attitude," he said at a press conference during his April 19 visit here. "It is a willingness to not be risk-adverse and to try new things." The visit to Fort Lewis was Rumsfeld's first since becoming President Bush's secretary of defense last year.
Transformation efforts began here in late 1999, when the Army announced that six brigades would transition into medium forces called "Initial Brigade Combat Teams." Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki's vision calls for the teams to fill a 'capability gap' between the Army's light and heavy forces. The units use off-the-shelf weapon systems and current cutting-edge technology designed to make them more mobile and "infocentric."
"The work being done here is important, and I wanted to see it firsthand," Rumsfeld said. "We are already doing the great things that will lead to transformational effects." During his visit, he watched IBCT soldiers in action, toured the Intelligence Operations Facility and briefed on Fort Lewis and transformation.
The secretary viewed a 'shoot house' demonstration by Company C, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The display showed the effectiveness of the new medium-weight force in close- quarters combat.
"In the past, shoot houses were only used by special operation forces," said 1st Lt. Gerald Rebeschini, a C Co. platoon leader. "But because of conflicts such as Somalia and Bosnia, it was determined that there was a need for other units to be trained in this type of environment."
That mindset is exactly where Rumsfeld's thoughts lie concerning transformation. "We are constantly changing and we are constantly learning," he said. "We are already applying lessons from the Afghanistan experience to the work we are currently doing."
Many questions during the press conference focused on the war on terrorism and operations in Afghanistan.
"The president and I said from the very outset, shortly after Sept. 11, that we would not rule anything out, and we haven't," he said. He noted, for instance, that inserting Special Forces troops to work with friendly Afghan forces dramatically shifted the conduct of the Afghan war.
The defense secretary said the Special Forces improved targeting for air strikes and supply airdrops, and they provided communications between U.S. and Afghan forces, which enabled the United States to accomplish a great deal in a short time.
As for continuing operations, Rumsfeld said there is no question that fugitive al Qaeda and Taliban forces will try to regroup and reassert influence in Afghanistan if the United States does not pay attention.
"They're in the mountains, they're in the caves, they're in the villages, they're also across the borders," he said. "It's important that we keep pressure on them so that the people of Afghanistan can go about their business and the country isn't turned into a terrorist training and deployment site again."
(Ann M. Zetterstrom is assigned to Transformation Public Affairs at Fort Lewis, Wash. Pfc. Steven J. Schneider of the post's Northwest Guardian newspaper contributed to the story.)