3rd Infantry’s 1st BCT trains for a new dwell-time mission.
Helping ‘people at home’ may become a permanent part of the
- Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Sep 30, 2008 16:16:12 EDT
The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent
35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle
rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply
Now they’re training for the same mission — with a twist — at
Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the 1st BCT will be under the
day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service
component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response
force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters,
including terrorist attacks.
It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped
to help at home. In August 2005, for example, when Hurricane
Katrina unleashed hell in Mississippi and Louisiana, several
active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized
to those areas.
But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has
been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command
established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal
homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil
After 1st BCT finishes its dwell-time mission, expectations
are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take
over and that the mission will be a permanent one.
“Right now, the response force requirement will be an
enduring mission. How the [Defense Department] chooses to source
that and whether or not they continue to assign them to NorthCom,
that could change in the future,” said Army Col. Louis Vogler,
chief of NorthCom future operations. “Now, the plan is to assign
a force every year.”
The command is at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado
Springs, Colo., but the soldiers with 1st BCT, who returned in
April after 15 months in Iraq, will operate out of their home
post at Fort Stewart, Ga., where they’ll be able to go to
school, spend time with their families and train for their new
homeland mission as well as the counterinsurgency mission in the
Stop-loss will not be in effect, so soldiers will be able to
leave the Army or move to new assignments during the mission,
and the operational tempo will be variable.
Don’t look for any extra time off, though. The at-home
mission does not take the place of scheduled combat-zone
deployments and will take place during the so-called dwell time
a unit gets to reset and regenerate after a deployment.
The 1st of the 3rd is still scheduled to deploy to either
Iraq or Afghanistan in early 2010, which means the soldiers will
have been home a minimum of 20 months by the time they ship out.
In the meantime, they’ll learn new skills, use some of the
ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not
be shot at while doing any of it.
They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd
control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as
massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical,
biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or
Training for homeland scenarios has already begun at Fort
Stewart and includes specialty tasks such as knowing how to use
the “jaws of life” to extract a person from a mangled vehicle;
extra medical training for a CBRNE incident; and working with
U.S. Forestry Service experts on how to go in with chainsaws and
cut and clear trees to clear a road or area.
The 1st BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use “the first
ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,” 1st BCT
commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and
traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to
subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.
The package is for use only in war-zone operations, not for
any domestic purpose.
“It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that
they’re fielding. They’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but
this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and
this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re
undertaking we were the first to get it.”
The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road
block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling
traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.
“I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered,” said
Cloutier, describing the experience as “your worst muscle cramp
ever — times 10 throughout your whole body.
“I’m not a small guy, I weigh 230 pounds ... it put me on my
knees in seconds.”
The brigade will not change its name, but the force will be
known for the next year as a CBRNE Consequence Management
Response Force, or CCMRF (pronounced “sea-smurf”).
“I can’t think of a more noble mission than this,” said
Cloutier, who took command in July. “We’ve been all over the
world during this time of conflict, but now our mission is to
take care of citizens at home ... and depending on where an
event occurred, you’re going home to take care of your home
town, your loved ones.”
While soldiers’ combat training is applicable, he said, some
nuances don’t apply.
“If we go in, we’re going in to help American citizens on
American soil, to save lives, provide critical life support,
help clear debris, restore normalcy and support whatever local
agencies need us to do, so it’s kind of a different role,” said
Cloutier, who, as the division operations officer on the last
rotation, learned of the homeland mission a few months ago while
they were still in Iraq.
Some brigade elements will be on call around the clock,
during which time they’ll do their regular marksmanship, gunnery
and other deployment training. That’s because the unit will
continue to train and reset for the next deployment, even as it
serves in its CCMRF mission.
Should personnel be needed at an earthquake in California,
for example, all or part of the brigade could be scrambled
there, depending on the extent of the need and the specialties
Other branches included
The active Army’s new dwell-time mission is part of a
NorthCom and DOD response package.
Active-duty soldiers will be part of a force that includes
elements from other military branches and dedicated National
Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Teams.
A final mission rehearsal exercise is scheduled for
mid-September at Fort Stewart and will be run by Joint Task
Force Civil Support, a unit based out of Fort Monroe, Va., that
will coordinate and evaluate the interservice event.
In addition to 1st BCT, other Army units will take part in
the two-week training exercise, including elements of the 1st
Medical Brigade out of Fort Hood, Texas, and the 82nd Combat
Aviation Brigade from Fort Bragg, N.C.
There also will be Air Force engineer and medical units, the
Marine Corps Chemical, Biological Initial Reaction Force, a Navy
weather team and members of the Defense Logistics Agency and the
Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
One of the things Vogler said they’ll be looking at is
communications capabilities between the services.
“It is a concern, and we’re trying to check that and one of
the ways we do that is by having these sorts of exercises.
Leading up to this, we are going to rehearse and set up some of
the communications systems to make sure we have
interoperability,” he said.
“I don’t know what America’s overall plan is — I just know
that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there are soldiers,
sailors, airmen and Marines that are standing by to come and
help if they’re called,” Cloutier said. “It makes me feel good
as an American to know that my country has dedicated a force to
come in and help the people at home.”
A non-lethal crowd control package fielded to 1st Brigade
Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, described in the original
version of this story, is intended for use on deployments to the
war zone, not in the U.S., as previously stated.