National Guard, Army To Align

Thursday, September 14th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — The Army announced a redesign of National Guard combat divisions Thursday that aligns them more closely with active-duty forces. The move will require better Guard training and make it more likely that part-time soldiers will be called to fight in future wars.

``It's about readiness,'' Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, said in an interview with The Associated Press. He spoke after announcing the changes at a meeting of the National Guard Association of the United States, a booster group that has pressed for closer ties between active and reserve forces.

Shinseki said it is not clear how much more money the National Guard will need to improve training, but working more closely with active-duty troops will make their training more focused on combat missions.

If the National Guard is to win a bigger share of Army funds, ``you're going to have to tie the Guard (divisions) to missions,'' the four-star general said. The eight Guard combat divisions, which were designed mainly as reinforcements for Europe during the Cold War, no longer have specific missions.

The change reflects Army leaders' search for ways to make better use of the National Guard at a time when the active-duty force is stretched thin by a variety of peacetime missions at home and abroad.

The Army National Guard has 360,000 members in 3,200 units in 2,700 communities across the nation. The active-duty Army has 470,000 members.

Shinseki also addressed one of the most pressing needs of the National Guard: modernizing its aging helicopter fleet. He said 122 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and 68 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters will be shifted from the active force to the Guard in 2002 to replacing older UH-1 Hueys.

Shinseki is aligning the Guard combat divisions with four Army corps. A corps is the largest combat organization in the Army. This will focus Guard training on specific potential wartime missions such as rear-area combat operations in a major conflict in the Persian Gulf, reinforcement of U.S. forces on the Korean peninsula or filling in for active-duty units in Germany that might be sent to fight elsewhere.

The new arrangement means members of National Guard combat divisions are more likely to be called on not only for war-fighting but also as rotation units for peacekeeping in places like Bosnia and Kosovo.

The change does not make National Guard divisions a part of the Pentagon's official war plans, which are written by the commanders in chief, or CINCs, of combat commands.

Shinseki said the next step is for the CINCs to designate Guard units for specific missions in their war plans.

Shinseki announced four corps ``packages'':

—Pairing the 5th Corps, headquartered at Heidelberg, Germany, with the 35th Infantry Division of the Kansas National Guard. The 5th Corps' operational focus is Europe. The 35th will be ``teamed'' with Fort Riley, Kan., home of active-duty brigades of the 1st Infantry Division and the 1st Armored Division.

Also part of the 5th Corps team will be two separate National Guard brigades, the 256th Infantry Brigade of the Louisiana National Guard and the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment of the Tennessee National Guard.

—The 1st Corps, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., will be aligned with the 40th Infantry Division of the California National Guard. The 1st Corps' main mission is preparing for potential war on the Korean peninsula. Fort Lewis is home to one active-duty brigade each of the 2nd Infantry Division and 25th Infantry Division.

—Aligned with the 3rd Corps will be three National Guard divisions: the 49th Armored of Texas, the 34th Infantry of Minnesota and the 38th Infantry of Indiana. The 3rd Corps is based at Fort Hood, Texas, and is geared toward providing the counter-punch offensive force in any major war.

—The 18th Airborne Corps, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., will be paired with the 29th Infantry Division of the Maryland and Virginia National Guard; the 28th Infantry Division of the Pennsylvania Guard, and the 42nd Infantry Division of the New York Guard. The 18th Airborne Corps is designed to be a rapid-reaction force to intervene in the Gulf or other hotspots around the world.


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