The 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division was designated earlier this year to be the Army’s first regionally-aligned brigade combat team and will be partnered with the Army’s Africa Command for about 18 months, beginning in 2013.
Following the brigade’s rotation to the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., early next year, the brigade will be capable of supporting a variety of missions and exercises across the African continent and also will be available for global contingency operations should that need arise.
“It’s always fun and challenging and rewarding to be the first to do anything, and I think everybody in the formation is really looking forward to that opportunity to go out there and assist in any way that we can,” said Col. Jeffery Broadwater, 2nd ABCT commander.
The brigade will not deploy to Africa as a whole, Broadwater said, and most missions will involve military-to-military cooperation and training conducted by small teams of 2nd ABCT Soldiers and leaders.
“Maybe four or five individuals from the brigade (will go) to a given country because that country requests it. They wanted to see how the U.S. Army conducts marksmanship or how does the U.S. do casualty evacuation – specific things like that in which a small number of individuals would go.”
The brigade’s and Army’s presence in Africa will be in response to partner nation requests, which are part of the AFRICOM campaign plan and coordinated through the U.S. Department of State.
The brigade’s Soldiers also will likely be called on for major partnered exercises, which will require a larger number of Soldiers, although it will still fall short of requiring the entire brigade.
“Another broad category would be the exercises, where you might have a larger portion of the brigade – not the entire brigade, but a larger portion – would go for 30 days or however long the timeframe is to conduct an exercise with a country,” Broadwater said.
In addition to being the largest, exercises would require the longest deployments.
“Obviously, we have that mission of regionally aligned, globally available, so things could change, but right now, all the missions would be about a week or 30 to 60 days for some of the larger exercises,” Broadwater said.
“That’s the way it looks right now.”
One of the major differences between planning for operations in Africa and the familiar preparations for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan is the variety of cultures, languages, histories and political realities to be found on the continent, which includes more than 50 countries and several major language Families.
“Any one of the countries inside has specific needs and things going on within that are different than in other countries,” Broadwater said. “So, I think that’s probably the biggest issue, but I don’t necessarily see it as a challenge – more as an opportunity.”
Also, given the large number of small missions that might be underway at a given time, maintaining administrative control and communications with all of the teams in the field will be a unique challenge on top of simply having qualified personnel in the proper places.
“Tracking all those elements, such as do they have their shots, their passports – which is something different that you didn’t have to think about in Iraq or Afghanistan – all those things like that, besides the training piece to make sure they are certified to meet the requirements of the host nation,” Broadwater said. “That is another (thing to consider).”
Past experience could stand the unit in good stead if properly leveraged, Broadwater added. Even current training, like company situational training exercise, or STX lanes, has real-world elements that might come in handy in Africa.
“One of the things we are drawing on now as we execute company STX is we still have to have the ability to react with a population, so interpreter skills, cultural understanding and awareness,” he said.
While training is now mostly focused on being prepared for global availability, Africa-related training will be ramped up following the brigade’s return from NTC in March, including using outside trainers to help educate Soldiers further on cultural awareness.
By Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire
2nd ABCT Public Affairs
Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire | 2ND ABCT
Col. Jeffery Broadwater, second from right, commander, 2nd ABCT, speaks with Soldiers from Btry. A, 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt., during a recent pre-combat inspection. The 2nd ABCT is the first Army unit to be regionally-aligned and is scheduled to conduct a variety of missions in Africa beginning in 2013.