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Each regional Army command has created a contingency response force which can secure a U.S. Embassy or evacuate Americans.
They can supply humanitarian aid or fight, all within 18 to 24 hours.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno last year directed the Army Service Component Commands to designate Army emergency quick-response forces that are “rapidly deployable to a permissive or semi-permissive environment,” said Lt. Col. Don Peters, an Army spokesman.
That means these soldiers could be deployed to a place where the host country’s military and law enforcement are in control and able to help, or they could be called upon to respond to an attack like the one last September in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.
They must be able to perform a variety of tasks, as needed, including site security, non-combatant evacuations, American or allied diplomatic facility security, and limited humanitarian assistance, Peters said.
The force also must be “responsive, scalable and tailorable,” giving the combatant commander flexibility in case of an emergency or contingency, he said. Most of the response forces are company-size units that can be augmented or decreased.
The directive from Odierno called for the forces to reach operating capacity by the first quarter of fiscal 2014, which is October through December.
Here’s a look at what each of the commands has done:
About the area: Responsible for one of the most volatile areas of operation in the world, Army Central has long had a response force for contingencies, said Col. Frank McClary, the chief of future operations.
ARCENT has an operational command post on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and about 15,000 soldiers in forward-deployed locations. Its AOR stretches from Kazakhstan to Egypt and includes Afghanistan and Iraq.
Who’s up: ARCENT identified a company within 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, for the task, McClary said.
“That force can respond within hours to any contingency,” McClary said.
Deployed to: Soldiers from 1st BCT are deployed to Camp Buehring, Kuwait, and will be completing their deployment in the next month or two, McClary said.
Who’s up next: When 1st BCT returns to Fort Carson, Colo., the contingency response force mission will be handed off to 2nd BCT, 4th Infantry Division, the brigade that is replacing 1st BCT in Kuwait, McClary said.
“We will maintain this capability as long as we have a presence forward,” he said.
What they can do: ARCENT can scale any contingency response up to the brigade level, McClary said. There also is a combat aviation brigade deployed to Kuwait, giving the force additional capability as needed, he said. The CAB currently in Kuwait is the 36th CAB, from the Texas National Guard.
“We have multiple response capability within the ARCENT footprint,” he said. “We can gin up a scalable force beyond the company that’s designated, which gives us a unique capability in our AOR.”
So far, the contingency response force in Kuwait has been alerted but has not been deployed, McClary said.
About the area: The East Africa Response Force is prepared to respond to contingencies such as the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador. The attack led to questions about why the military did not or could not send help quickly enough as the facility was being overrun.
“Recent events and the growing complexity of the security environment have demonstrated the need for [the Defense Department] to position responsive forces globally with the capability to respond to potential crises in the African region,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Elizabeth Ortiz, spokeswoman for Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
Who’s up: The force is composed mostly of soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. Officials declined to discuss specifics about the force, citing operational security.
The EARF is a battalion-size task force made up mostly of soldiers from 2nd BCT, but the force also has Navy and Air Force personnel, Ortiz said.
Soldiers from 2nd BCT’s 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, began deploying to Djibouti in April, Army officials have said.
Deployed to: The EARF is designed to respond rapidly within East Africa, including Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda. But the force can be sent wherever the commander deems necessary in Africa, Ortiz said.
What they can do:
The EARF is one of three such forces available to Gen. David Rodriguez, commanding general of U.S. Africa Command. Rodriguez also can call upon commander’s in-extremis force, which was stood up last October.
The force is based out of Fort Carson, Colo., and it rotates forces so it has elements that are constantly forward-deployed.
AFRICOM also can call on a 500-strong Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response unit that’s tailored for response in northwest Africa. Their mission could include non-combatant evacuation operations and personnel recovery-related force protection.
About the area: “The world is a dangerous place, to include parts of the [European Command] area of operations, and there was a gap to a requirement,” said Col. Frederick Jessen, the chief of operations for U.S. Army Europe. “The Army chief of staff ... charged his Army service component commanders to provide a capability to fill that gap.”
The Army Contingency Response Force was stood up following guidance this spring from senior Army leaders.
“It’s another unit the [combatant] commander has at his disposal if they were called upon for a small-scale contingency or to support an embassy or something along those lines,” said Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell, commanding general of USAREUR.
Who’s up: The 173rd Brigade Combat Team based in Vicenza, Italy, took on the mission Oct. 1 after resetting from its recent deployment to Afghanistan, Campbell said. A company of soldiers from the 173rd stands ready.
Jessen declined to identify the unit within the 173rd designated for the mission but said it was an infantry company.
The contingency response force in Europe was first stood up in early summer, with soldiers from 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Campbell said. The battalion typically serves as the opposing force at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany.
Who’s next: Jesssen anticipates the brigade commander will rotate the mission among companies. Officials have not determined who might take over from the 173rd, but a likely candidate is the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, currently in Afghanistan.
What they can do: The force is ready to respond within 18 hours to contingencies in Europe and Africa. The company from the 173rd is prepared to conduct full-spectrum operations, from humanitarian assistance to combat operations, Jessen said. The brigade is set for a decisive action training rotation at the JMRC in November, and the soldiers likely will focus on non-combatant evacuation operations, humanitarian assistance and fixed-site security.
About the area: Because of its unique homeland defense mission, Army North provides a different type of contingency response force to the commander of U.S. Northern Command.
Who’s up: Task Force 51 provides mission command to Defense Department forces conducting defense support to civil authorities, said Randy Mitchell, a spokesman for Army North.
Deployed to: Locations in North America.
What they can do: The force can deploy within hours. Their job is to support civil authorities and first responders to “save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain public confidence,” he said.
The task force can deploy between six and 75 people, depending on the mission or disaster, Mitchell said. If needed, the initial element of Task Force 51 can deploy in six hours, and the main body can be out the door in 10 hours, said James Skidmore, a task force member.
Elements of Task Force 51 have responded to the wildfires in California and hurricanes Ike, Gustav and Irene, Skidmore said.
About the area: Soldiers in Hawaii and Alaska are taking on the Army’s contingency response capability for the vast Pacific Command area of operations. They must “be ready to support a full range of missions out here in the Pacific, everything from humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, non-combatant evacuations, to contingencies,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Johnson, deputy commanding general of operations for the 25th Infantry Division.
Who’s up: “At some point in time, if you’re serving in the 25th Infantry Division, you will stand as part of the contingency response force,” Johnson said. He declined to say which unit currently serves as the quick-response force.
“We’ve been preparing for this capability this whole year,” Johnson said. “What really enabled us to focus on the contingency response capability was our offramp from Afghanistan.”
Both of the division’s Hawaii-based brigade combat teams — 2nd Stryker Brigade and 3rd BCT — were slated to deploy to Afghanistan last summer, but they were called off as the U.S. rebalanced and refocused its efforts on the Asia-Pacific region, Johnson said.
In Alaska, under U.S. Army Alaska, a company-size element with 4th BCT, 25th Infantry, has assumed a dual response force mission, said Col. Matt McFarlane, the brigade commander.
Who’s next: The task of being on call and able to respond quickly is rotated throughout the division’s elements in Hawaii, Johnson said. The contingency response force mission likely will rotate between the two brigade combat teams, Johnson said, with each being on tap for four to six months at a time.
“We’re going from a culture of preparing for a very well defined mission in Iraq or Afghanistan and a [deployment] that’s a year-plus out to a culture of readiness,” Johnson said.
The Alaska force will rotate the duty throughout the brigade, McFarlane said.
What they can do: “It’s scalable and tailorable for what the mission calls for,” Johnson said. “We can send anything out from a single element, detachment capability, all the way up to company, battalion and brigade level if needed.”
They can deploy within 24 hours, he said.
The Alaska force can respond to contingencies in the Pacific AOR, but it also serves as the Ready Response Force-Alaska, McFarlane said. The force can respond within 18 hours.
About the area: U.S. Southern Command is responsible for providing contingency planning, operations and security cooperation for Central and South America and the Caribbean, said Col. Greg Julian, spokesman for the command.
SOUTHCOM also is responsible for force protection for U.S. military resources in the area of responsibility and ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal, he said.
Who’s up: Army South acts as a joint task force headquarters during contingencies, Julian said.
Army South most recently served as the joint task force headquarters in Haiti, after the earthquake there in 2010.
What they can do: The command continues to plan for contingencies, including mass migration, U.S. citizen evacuations abroad and natural disasters, Julian said.