Military Review English Edition March-April 2016 - Page 95

RECONNAISSANCE SQUADRON (Photo by Airman 1st Class Jamie Nicley, U.S. Air Force) Soldiers from the reconnaissance squadron of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team parachute from a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft 18 November 2009 at the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. authority with the ability to deliver a battalion in eighteen hours, or a brigade combat team (BCT) in ninety-six hours, from U.S. soil to anywhere in the world. The relevance of airborne units was called into question by Dr. Marc R. Devore’s 2015 publication When Failure Thrives: Institutions and the Evolution of Postwar Airborne Forces. Devore argues that U.S. airborne forces have outlived their relevance, that it is not practical to employ airborne forces against a nearpeer competitor, and that the cost of maintaining this capability is not worth the benefits.3 I do not attempt to argue directly against Devore’s study but rather to show that airborne units can be relevant if they employ a new way of conducting an airborne assault as part of a forcible entry operation. Devore asserts that an “organization’s ability to innovate is contingent upon its willingness to dismantle or otherwise abandon elements of its existing structure and operational procedures,” and in that regard, I agree.4 To make airborne assault more relevant, we must abandon existing procedures and embrace a new, effective way of employing the airborne brigade’s organic reconnaissance squadron during joint forcible entry. MILITARY REVIEW  March-April 2016 Effectiveness of Airborne Assault As the land force component of a joint task force conducting forcible entry, the 82nd Airborne Division is the proponent for developing and training procedures for airborne assault. Unfortunately, the way the 82nd plans, rehearses, and trains for airborne assault is outdated. The standard by which the Army’s five airborne brigades conduct an airborne assault fails to employ the BCT’s organic reconnaissance squadron to its full potential.5 For example, at the time this article was written, an operation plan (OPLAN) developed by the 82nd’s G-5 (assistant chief of staff, plans) and used as the planning and training template for airborne assault at the brigade level had placed the reconnaissance squadron in a defensive position for most of the operation.6 The current “82nd Airborne Division Airfield Seizure Standard Operating Procedure,” derived from this OPLAN and other institutional documents, does not even mention the reconnaissance squadron.7 Fortunately, these shortcomings are an opportunity not only to update standard operating procedures (SOPs), plans, and training guidelines but also to revisit the challenging problem of 93