USA — Petraeus Describes Changes in Army Structure, Doctrine

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2010 — The Army’s con­ver­sion to a mod­u­lar com­bat brigade struc­ture in the years imme­di­ate­ly pre­ced­ing the surge of forces into Iraq was a key fac­tor in the strategy’s suc­cess, the com­man­der of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand said here yes­ter­day.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, com­man­der of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, gives the keynote speech for the Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute for Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Research annu­al din­ner and gala March 6, 2010, at the Nation­al Build­ing Muse­um in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Petraeus received the Irv­ing Kris­tol Award, the institute’s top hon­or, which rec­og­nized intel­lec­tu­al and prac­ti­cal con­tri­bu­tions to gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy, social wel­fare or polit­i­cal under­stand­ing.
DoD pho­to by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Car­den
Click to enlarge

“As I have not­ed on sev­er­al occa­sions, the most impor­tant surge in Iraq was not the surge of forces,” Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said in a keynote address to the Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute for Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Research. “Rather, it was the surge of ideas that guid­ed the employ­ment of our forces in Iraq.”

Petraeus – who com­mand­ed U.S. forces in Iraq dur­ing the surge – received the Irv­ing Kris­tol Award at the institute’s annu­al din­ner and gala.

The gen­er­al recount­ed the events and process­es that led to the Army’s trans­for­ma­tion from a divi­sion-cen­tric to brigade-cen­tric fight­ing force, not­ing that the mod­u­lar-brigade con­cept changed the way forces deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Trans­for­ma­tion is a part of the Army’s recent his­to­ry that’s “near and dear” to his heart, Petraeus said. The peri­od from 2005 to 2006, when brigade com­bat teams were equipped and manned to func­tion more inde­pen­dent­ly, he said, does­n’t receive the cred­it it deserves for the Army’s suc­cess in Iraq and progress in Afghanistan.

The surge proved crit­i­cal to progress in Iraq, Petraeus said, how­ev­er, he not­ed that the Army’s peri­od of trans­for­ma­tion pre-dat­ed the surge. “Indeed, it was dur­ing this peri­od that we devel­oped the intel­lec­tu­al under­pin­ning that proved so crit­i­cal when addi­tion­al forces were deployed to Iraq in 2007,” he said.

With­out those ideas and new think­ing about coun­terin­sur­gency oper­a­tions, U.S. forces would not have been suc­cess­ful in the surge, Petraeus said. The efforts that insti­tu­tion­al­ized those ideas “touched all aspects of our Army” through a gen­er­a­tional trans­for­ma­tion, he added.

Much has changed in the way the Army oper­ates on and off the bat­tle­field, the gen­er­al said, includ­ing doc­trine, the way lead­ers are edu­cat­ed, how forces are trained, and how the Army builds on lessons learned. He also not­ed the Army’s shift from divi­sion rehearsal exer­cis­es pri­or to deploy­ments to three-week tours by brigade com­bat teams to joint readi­ness train­ing cen­ters in Cal­i­for­nia, Louisiana or Ger­many.

The Army worked tire­less­ly to pro­vide real­is­tic train­ing for troops to pre­pare deploy­ing units for the con­stant­ly evolv­ing insur­gent threats, he said.

All of the Army’s changes have “had far-reach­ing impli­ca­tions for the con­duct in our oper­a­tions in Iraq, and most recent­ly, in Afghanistan,” the gen­er­al said.

Petraeus also rec­og­nized ser­vice­mem­bers and mil­i­tary lead­ers for their com­mit­ment in putting those ideas into prac­tice. He recalled how the coali­tion was strug­gling in Iraq in 2004. Despite some progress at that time, the insur­gency still spread, and by 2006, sec­tar­i­an vio­lence began to grow at an alarm­ing rate. Polit­i­cal progress in Iraq then was at a vir­tu­al stand­still, he said.

When the surge of forces arrived in 2007, troops focused on secur­ing the pop­u­la­tion by liv­ing near the com­mu­ni­ties in com­bat out­posts, rather than com­mut­ing to the fight from larg­er bases, he said. Troops fos­tered rec­on­cil­i­a­tion when pos­si­ble, relent­less­ly pur­sued al-Qai­da and sup­port­ed civ­il-mil­i­tary efforts.

The increased num­ber of troops and their train­ing enabled suc­cess, he said. And although the mis­sion in Iraq “got hard­er before it got eas­i­er,” the gen­er­al added, coali­tion and Iraqi forces were able to reduce vio­lence by more than 90 per­cent. Improved secu­ri­ty allowed for infra­struc­ture repairs, revival of the econ­o­my and the process of Iraqi elec­tions – “all of which gave rise to new hope,” he said.

“This hope was cre­at­ed as a result of the changes our Army, togeth­er with the oth­er ser­vices, made in 2006 that enabled the sub­se­quent imple­men­ta­tion of our big ideas in Iraq in 2007,” he said. “This was the process that enabled the real surge in Iraq – the surge of ideas. Armed with and trained on these ideas, lead­ers and troop­ers who got it about coun­terin­sur­gency deployed to Iraq and enabled the progress we’ve seen there over the past three years.”

War calls for con­stant learn­ing and adap­tion, espe­cial­ly in a coun­terin­sur­gency fight, Petraeus said. But mil­i­tary lead­ers and ser­vice­mem­bers still have much to learn, he acknowl­edged.

“The side that learns and adapts the fastest often pre­vails,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)