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Third Army: Empowering Theater Responsiveness by Synchronizing Operational Maneuver

March 14, 2012

The United States Army is entering a period of transition from an era dominated by the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq to one that will blend both familiar and new challenges around the world. America’s decisive force brings a versatile mix of capabilities that provide formations the ability to maneuver, communicate and survive while sustaining operations in any theater. The United States’ ability to move operational equipment and supplies around the world is unmatched by any other nation. Ultimately these logistics, transportation and sustainment competencies allow the United States Army to fulfill its Title 10 responsibilities to conduct prompt and sustained combat operations on land. As part of the era of transition, the Army will focus on becoming more flexible and agile while building partner nation capacity. To achieve that global versatility, the Army must balance its worldwide presence, strategic mobility and equipment prepositioning to ensure it is prepared for potential conflicts. The ability to quickly prepare, deploy and redeploy personnel and equipment is a key component of the new global strategy. Going forward, the Army must retain and build on the experience and lessons learned from the past decade at war and apply that knowledge in new ways that support small-footprint, rotational deployments.

A prime example of Army achievements over the past decade is the operational retrograde of U.S. forces from Iraq at the end of 2011. This complex operational maneuver demanded integrated planning by Army, joint and interagency organizations to address the required communications, security, mobility, logistics and sustainment capabilities. These capabilities are the often unheralded but inherently critical fields that enable worldwide operations. The joint Third U.S. Army/U.S. Army Central (ARCENT)–U.S. Forces–Iraq (USF-I) withdrawal effort built on the process and lessons accumulated since the first Gulf War. Third Army orchestrated and integrated the many special capabilities within the Army and joint force to support USF-I’s final operations. The command partnership was able to efficiently and effectively retrograde, redeploy or reposture all of the U.S. property, equipment and facilities in Iraq—a scale of effort not seen since World War II. The Iraq retrograde and redeployment provides a benchmark for the skill sets necessary to sustain the prosecution of continuous combat operations while providing some indications of how those skill sets need to evolve to meet emerging requirements.