Above: The Color of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division
The Mentor—“I want you to write an article for Infantry Magazine”
Article by A170 Tom Rozman
It was summer 1984. The 1st Armored Division’s 2nd Brigade was the largest divisional tank brigade in the U.S. 7th Army and likely the largest tank brigade in NATO at the time. It comprised four maneuver battalions, the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 46th Infantry, 1st Battalion, 35th Armor, 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor and 2nd Battalion, 81st Armor. The brigade was stationed at Ferris Barracks, Erlangen, Germany. It’s primary mission was to occupy assigned NATO General Defense positions on the U.S. VII Corps right flank adjacent to III German Corps.
At the time an as important mission was in progress. Separate from the Berlin Brigade and airborne brigade in Italy, the four U.S. maneuver divisions, two forward deployed divisional brigades and two armored cavalry regiments that comprised the U.S. Army Europe’s maneuver force were in process of conducting a massive force modernization in place. The entire heavy force of the Army world-wide was involved in this modernization. The work was not restricted to integrating a new tank, infantry and cavalry fighting vehicles and other supporting vehicles and equipment, it also involved reorganization of the battalions.
Among the significant changes to the mechanized infantry battalions as an example, the battalion would redesignate its combat support company as Company E an anti-tank company. The scout platoon and heavy mortar platoons would be reassigned to headquarters company, the mortar platoon gaining two additional 107mm mortars establishing a battery of six heavy mortars. The company’s anti-tank platoon would be retained and the anti-tank sections from the three original and a fourth added mechanized infantry company were consolidated into the anti-tank company. The infantry companies 81mm mortar sections were deactivated and their mortars turned-in to the ordnance battalion.
A significant service support development was the consolidation of all six of the battalion’s company maintenance sections into a consolidated maintenance unit in the headquarters company. This consolidation of what had been an organic institution in the mechanized infantry company of the U.S. Army for two decades was a significant development.
On one level the consolidation affected the culture of the company in its sense of tactical self-reliance and making it work was fraught with challenges. Among the challenges was establishing a sense of confidence in the companies that the new organizational structure for tactical tracked armored and tactical wheeled vehicle maintenance would be responsive and effective in maintaining vehicle availability in the field.
By dint of a remarkable set of competent leaders at every level across the battalion, and a brand new six vehicle bay shop facility with all the equipment of a modern updated heavy vehicle shop, the battalion experienced success. In a short time the reorganization and development of effective intra battalion maintenance operations in garrison and deployed had come together very well. It was a leadership team effort that worked.
As was the brigade commander’s practice with the brigade’s four maneuver battalion commander’s in their ongoing work to reorganize their battalions occasional, meetings would occur between the brigade and reorganizing battalion commander. These took the form of informal commander in progress reviews (IPRs) allowing for identification of any areas of issue and following command focus to rectify.
Then brigade commander, Colonel Richard B. Griffitts, an experienced armor officer. was concluding a meeting with the Battalion Commander of the brigade’s mechanized battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Werner Banisch. The battalion executive officer was a participant.
A focus of the meeting had been the progress of the maintenance reorganization in the battalion. The brigade commander indicated that he found the results of the battalion’s effort exceptional and thought the sharing of how the battalion went about the reorganization and the results would be valuable feed-back to the larger modernizing Army.
He turned to the battalion executive officer (XO) and said he wanted the XO to draft an article for Infantry Magazine. He wanted to share the insights gained and results of the approach the battalion had taken to reorganize the maintenance assets of the battalion and develop effective tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) for the operations of the reorganized assets.
Though the XO had published only one previous article and that in the targeted journal, Infantry Magazine, five years earlier he acknowledged the assignment. The Brigade commander wanted the article drafted as soon as possible.
The XO immediately began work on a draft. Within a working day the XO had fleshed out a draft. A review by the battalion commander with a following review by the brigade commander found the manuscript on target.
The manuscript was promptly forwarded to the editor of Infantry Magazine. It was accepted for publication and published in the next issue of the magazine.
It should be mentioned that the XO had enjoyed a very constructive mentoring relationship with the brigade commander to include serving for over two months as the acting battalion commander under his command. In this case of providing professional feedback to the Army that suggested wider value to leaders engaged in the same work and tasks the mentoring relationship came together in a beneficial way for the XO and the wider Army.
The XO, not a prolific published writer at the time, was sufficiently encouraged by the experience to pick up the pen in a more significant way four years later to address major Army challenges such as training the force on reduced resources, consideration of medium or motorized forces and reserve force mobilization readiness training and certifications needs in a smaller active force contingency environment. Over 30 articles to include ten in Military Review would be authored or co-authored.
The benefit this work may have had to the larger Army was definitely a credit to the mentoring of the brigade commander. His mentoring effort had far reaching impact.
Note: the author was the battalion XO. The professional writing effort expanded dramatically in 1987 while the author was assigned to the Department of the Army Armored Family of Vehicles Task Force with an article in Proceedings co-authored with Major General Robert Sunell that addressed training approaches for the heavy force of the future.
The volume of articles increased greatly from 1990 through 1992 focused on such initiatives as what became the Stryker Program and the Combined Arms Training Strategy as well as Reserve Component readiness training system issues and needs highlighted by the first Gulf War mobilizations. The effectiveness of this writing and willingness to engage in it was very much a feature of the brigade commander’s mentoring in 1984. After all, there are risks in writing and publishing.