The New Third ID: The Unit of Action

It's not Iraq: these soldiers are training in California.
It's not Iraq: these soldiers are training in California.

We watched them lead the charge into Baghdad, now the Third Infantry Division is leading the Army in a different way as they train for their next mission in Iraq. They're also adjusting to a new division structure. WTOC spent some time earlier this month with the soldiers at the National Training Center in California, where we learned that the changes break with decades of tradition in the brigade structure.

The Army has long preached they fight the way they train. In the new system, they'll train the way they fight.

Out in the sand and the heat of the Mojave Desert, it's still hard for soldiers not to call their group the 2nd Brigade instead of the new name, 2nd UA, or unit of action. But the word brigade is a thing of the past for the soldiers of Third Infantry.

Shortly after fighting formally ended in Operation Iraqi Freedom, leaders at the Pentagon looked for ways to improve the already lethal Army. In the brigade system, soldiers with similar duties--armor, infantry, artillery--were grouped together. But when deployed for battle, commanders must reassign companies to balance the unit.

To understand the system, imagine a football team of all linemen. In training, they work on the same skills and become some of the best. But come game time, you have to get some linebackers, some receivers and a quarterback.

With 2nd UA soldiers at their regular exercises inside the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, they're getting their first field look at the new team. "So rather than take an entire division or another organization like that, what we offer to the commander is that particular organization all intact," explained Col. Bob Caslen. "Second, you now have that organization that was task-organized from different levels from different organizations come together to now form a unit and are assigned together. They're doing a great job of reorganizing, dragging their duffle bags across post if necessary and put the organization together."

"What I like about the UA organization is everybody who works with us, lives with us, so I think we'll have better cohesion," said Col. Joe DiSalvo.

Commanders say more equipment is on the way for the time when the unit of action is called into action. Another advantage to this system is they can now deploy parts of the division more easily if fewer soldiers are needed and still get the balance of forces.

The 2nd US was the first group to try this structure in the field. They tested it in the toughest place in America. Coming up tomorrow, we'll show you why some soldiers say simulated warfare at the NTC is more grueling than the real thing.

Reported by: Dal Cannady,