Commandant's Hatch - An Army in Transition

by BG Lee Quintas
Commandant, U.S. Army Armor School

There is no mistaking that our Army is in a period of transition. Decreases in military spending and reduction of future force levels all indicate a restructuring Army. The Army could reach endstrength levels not seen since before World War II. Leaner times will be challenging, and yet reduction in size will not equate to a reduction in readiness. In fact, a smaller force – highly trained and prepared for the next mission – must be better than its larger predecessor. Armor and cavalry forces will remain adaptive and agile through this transition as we seek to continually improve our mission effectiveness. As leaders, we must complement our focus on high-quality home-station training with meaningful and quality leader development and education programs as we prepare for current and future operations.

Restructuring our force creates opportunities to reorganize, and the decision to add a third maneuver battalion as part of the reduction to 450,000 Soldiers provides a signature example. During a recent cavalry squadron capabilities update to the Army Chief of Staff, we proposed multiple initiatives, including standardizing scout and cavalry formations across armored, infantry and Stryker brigade combat teams (BCTs). Standardized cavalry squadrons improve our formations’ ability to conduct reconnaissance and security missions in the current and future operating environment. Beginning with the building block of all cavalry formations, we must first get the scout squad “right.” A scout squad design of a six-man element, capable of operating both mounted and dismounted, simultaneously provides a capable and enduring formation. This six-man squad consists of two noncommissioned officers (NCOs) and four junior-enlisted Soldiers to provide the appropriate leader-to-led ratio. Six scout squads form the framework of a standardized scout platoon. The scout platoon, with six squads of six Soldiers per squad (or 36 assigned personnel, referred to as the 6x36 standardized scout platoon) affords commanders necessary baseline capabilities to accomplish reconnaissance and security missions in support of combined-arms maneuver (CAM) and wide-area security (WAS) operations.

We must equip the standardized scout platoons with six like vehicles. For the ABCT, this means six Bradley Fighting Vehicle platforms. For SBCTs, six Strykers. For the IBCT, we will use nine humvees as we await development of a suitable Light Reconnaissance Vehicle (LRV). This LRV, equipped with a remote weapon system and next-generation optics, will provide the necessary mobility, lethality and survivability.

Also, through our transition, we will seize the opportunity to focus on the fundamentals – our core competencies as tankers and scouts. The war on terrorism necessarily forced us to employ our tankers and scouts in nontraditional roles. As we capture the enduring lessons and recapture our skills from 13 years of largely counterinsurgency and Special Forces missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, we must re-establish our dominance in mobile protected firepower and reconnaissance and security across the range of military operations.

Good leaders and organizations expertly execute transitions. As the Army transitions and we prepare for an uncertain future, we owe our Soldiers and units comprehensive training plans focused on conducting CAM and WAS. Our mission success starts during home-station training, maximizing the training tools available within live, constructive, virtual and gaming environments. Resources such as the Close Combat Tactical Trainer, Virtual Battlespace 2 and 3 and the Training Brain Repository allow support for building leaders and units competent and confident in integrating the warfighting functions. Maximizing these tools will facilitate the planning and execution of planning, preparing and conducting decisive-action training environment rotations at a combat training center. The most important investments during this transition are in leader development and education. As GEN Robert W. Cone, the former TRADOC commanding general, stated, “You cannot buy a good leader development and education program.” Effective leader development and education programs provide our Army with adaptive and agile leaders we require now and in the future.

The Armor School continues to seek and create opportunities. An ongoing doctrine, organizations, training, material, leader development, personnel and facilities review will propose solutions on how to best train, man and equip the cavalry squadron, and I welcome your input. We are also enabling deliberate career paths that align professional military education with corresponding functional training, as well as a refined self-study program, for both officers and NCOs. Trained, educated and experienced leaders who possess doctrinal foundations will lead our armor and cavalry organizations through the transition. Improvements to the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leader’s Course, Army Reconnaissance Course, Cavalry Leader’s Course, Stryker Leader’s Course and Master Gunner Course make them more relevant and effective, and will provide enhanced capabilities to the force. The addition of reconnaissance and security electives focused on the unique requirements of our cavalry organizations in the Pre-Command Course, Sergeants Major Academy, Mission Command Training Program and Command and General Staff College will further prepare leaders through a lifetime of learning for the unique demands of maneuver leadership.

The strength of our formations remains our ability to provide adaptive, agile and inspiring leadership in any environment. Dedicated training on the fundamentals, coupled with well-developed and resourced leader development and education programs, will play an important role in our continued success. I encourage leaders to use Armor School media outlets to present your viewpoints to the rest of us. How is your organization preparing for this transition? What are you doing personally? Share your leader development and education plan, best practices and lessons-learned on Facebook ( And of course, you may email me directly.

Forge the Thunderbolt!