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Army Creates 4 Brigades for Pacific

July 13, 2001|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Army is setting up four experimental quick-strike combat brigades geared for potential trouble spots in Asia and the Pacific.

The units will be forged from active-duty troops currently in Hawaii, Alaska and Louisiana. A fourth will be formed with reservists with the Army National Guard in Pennsylvania.

"We view this as a big step forward in improving strategic mobility and getting a lot of combat power faster into the regions of concern in the Pacific," said Army Secretary Thomas E. White Jr., who announced the move Thursday at the Pentagon.

White and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki said the experimental units are part of the Army's attempt to forge a more nimble, deadly and movable military force for the future.

While there are about 470,000 soldiers in the Army, more than 100,000 remain in a Cold War deployment in Europe, the officials said.

There are only 37,000 Army troops based in South Korea, and many more would be needed to conduct an operation on the ground, White said.

"This is adding a little balance, and looking at the importance and the growing interest and challenges in the Asia-Pacific theater," added Shinseki.

The four-star general said the soldiers could deploy anywhere in the world, but in the Pacific "it is the tyranny of distances" and the Army should be better positioned to respond.

It will take at least several years for them to be outfitted and to prepare to enter actual combat. The brigades will be stripped of heavy tanks. Ultimately, they will be outfitted with a lighter, more versatile vehicle that would use wheels rather than steel tracks and possibly be outfitted with a cannon using electrothermal-chemical technology.

Given tensions between China and Taiwan, and worries about North Korea, Pentagon officials have said they need to shift more attention to that part of the world.

The four new units will be in addition to two experimental brigades set up a year ago in Washington state to test the concept. It costs about $1 billion to form each unit, Shinseki said.

All six are supposed to be in place by 2003.

The new fighting units will consist of 3,500 soldiers each.

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