Many people will be asking themselves what is going to happen with the U.S. Army when the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are over. What changes will the troops see, and how are the forces preparing for future challenges? Some of the answers to those questions can be found in the Army’s 162nd Infantry Brigade, headquartered at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
The 162nd Brigade has the task of training officers and non-commissioned officers in interdisciplinary fields such as languages, culture, economics, socio-political negotiations, the use of diplomacy, and other topics that serve as a foundation for the implementation of Regionally Aligned Brigades (RABs).
The objective of these efforts is to regionalize and transform these brigades in order to confront global challenges. The final goal is that these forces will be regionally aligned with the aim of supporting the combatant commands: the Northern Command, the Southern Command, the Central Command, the Pacific Command, the European Command, and the recently formed Africa Command. Brigadier General Clarence K.K. Chinn, the commander of the Joint Readiness Training Center, said on a recent visit to the 162nd Brigade’s second battalion that it was imperative to add security-assistance and capacity-development missions to the RABs. The guiding principle of this concept will be to make a substantial contribution to global stability and strengthening strategic alliances.
General Chinn added that the RABs will have the necessary resources to assist our Special Forces on a range of missions, including foreign internal defense. These RABs will play a significant role, since they will complement the efforts of the U.S. Department of Defense in the areas of conflict prevention, stability, and interoperability.
In 1992, Samuel P. Huntington developed a theory in the field of international relations. Huntington called it “the clash of civilizations.” This scholar maintains that the chief sources of conflict will not be economic or ideological, but rather that the fault lines and sources of conflict will be between groups from different civilizations, and these groups, for their part, will dominate the international stage. International relations expert Robert O. Kehoane, in his book titled After Hegemony, emphasizes the importance of cooperation as a way to prevent conflicts. This is precisely one of the postulates on which the Regionally Aligned Brigades are based. Along the same lines, neoliberal theorist Joseph Nye maintains in his book Power and Interdependence that an integral part of international relations is based on the use of smart power, or the combination of hard power (sticks) with soft power (carrots). In this new framework, the chief objective is to succeed in using more “carrots” and fewer “sticks.”
What, then, do these theoretical concepts mean as concepts for implementation? For the Western Hemisphere combatant commands (the Southern Command and the Northern Command), they mean new opportunities for hemispheric peace and fraternity. The full implementation of a brigade trained in multidisciplinary areas, able to contribute to strengthening the relationships between the United States and its neighbors, is predicted for the future. These postulates are, in essence, what Admiral James Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe and a former commander of the U.S. Southern Command, used to emphasize: “a bombardment of ideas instead of missiles.”
In the future, these RABs will participate more assiduously in events such as medical exercises, where the hope is to reach the communities most in need with medical, dental, ophthalmological, and veterinary personnel, among others, and will be trained to participate in professional exchanges at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.
The RABs will be a multiplier element in the fight against narco-terrorism, where the hope is to detect, deter, and defeat threats; participate in humanitarian operations; have teams of engineers available; and collaborate on military and security exchanges. This new concept will be a turning point in the use of military force.
At present, the 162nd Brigade has three foreign-relations officers who are experts in the Western Hemisphere and whose task it is to develop the programs that will be implemented in the future. They are the pioneers of this new concept and are currently acting as liaisons with the Northern and Southern Commands and with Army North and Army South. Predictions are that this titanic effort will begin to bear fruit in the next few years.
At the same time, these officers are charged with developing the necessary guidelines for a contingent of approximately 35 officers and non-commissioned officers who will be responsible for developing and carrying out training and evaluation missions in relation to these RABs once their missions are consolidated.
As with any new concept, this one is not without unanswered questions. With the aim of filling those gaps, the 162nd Brigade, in coordination with the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), will hold a workshop in February where they will evaluate potential scenarios in which the RABs could be used with optimal results. Senior officers from WHINSEC’s Command and General Staff Course will participate in the workshop. The course has 48 students from 12 countries in the hemisphere, whose experiences are expected to provide promising results in this spirit. Other military, civilian, and academic institutions are also expected to participate, with the objective of effectively planning the future of the RABs.
The forces of the future are being shaped at this moment. We hope to learn from and fix some weaknesses of the past, and we are confident that we are designing a force capable of being a friendly hand with an international reach. In the next few years, the Army’s processes for administering and using the RABs will be analyzed.
*_Lieutenant Colonel Samuel López Santana is a distinguished foreign-relations officer with the 162nd Brigade at Fort Polk, Louisiana. López is one of the first three officers in charge of developing programs and training for the Regionally Aligned Brigades (RABs) for the Western Hemisphere._