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Army Changes Policy, Will Keep Troop Units Together

November 07, 1986|United Press International

WASHINGTON — The Army, in "a major shift in American Army thinking," will begin assigning combat soldiers by units rather than individually to boost morale, foster loyalty and improve fighting ability, senior officers said today.

The change will keep combat soldiers in the same unit from the time they are trained through their deployment overseas and afterwards in a concept based on the theory that troops who stay together will fight better because they care about each other.

"This is a major shift in American Army thinking" because the emphasis previously has been on the individual, not units, said Lt. Gen. Robert Elton, deputy chief of staff for personnel.

The Army chief of staff, Gen. John Wickham, approved the change Oct. 2. It is expected initially to affect 600 companies in armored, mechanized, infantry, artillery, air defense and engineering units by the year 2000, the service said. It would affect about 90,000 soldiers, based on an average of 150 men in each company.

The plan is to expand the new system to the entire Army, which has about 780,000 men and women.

In the first major personnel change in more than 30 years, the Army moved toward the buddy-like system in 1981 with an experiment called Cohesion Operational Readiness Training, in which the troops were kept together for at least three years--the original term of enlistment.

The Army has put 196 companies into that program, which will be dropped and expanded to form the new one. The new system will keep the original basic unit together beyond three years even if some of the soldiers are discharged from active duty.

Replacements for the soldiers who are discharged will join the unit as a team, not as individuals who come together from separate outfits, as they do now.

"We're changing the culture of the Army," Elton said.

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