Regionally Aligned Forces: A New Model for Building Partnerships

Lt. Col. Joel Ibouanga, of the Gabonese Army and exercise force protection officer familiarizes a Utah National Guard member with the Gabonese highway system during Medical Accord Central 12. Medical Accord Central 12 is a U.S. Africa Command-sponsored medical exercise focused on promoting working relationships and capacity building for U.S. and Gabon.


Anyone following defense news knows that it’s not business as usual these days.  With the new Department of Defense (DoD) Strategic Guidance on the street and budget realities looming, we’re thinking hard and making tough decisions about how to best serve the Nation in the future.  One of the ideas we’re rolling out in Fiscal Year 2013 is the concept of regionally aligned forces.

We have learned many lessons over the last 10 years, but one of the most compelling is that – whether you are working among the citizens of a country, or working with their government or Armed Forces – nothing is as important to your long term success as understanding the prevailing culture and values.

Before the most recent set of conflicts, it was generally believed that cultural awareness was only required in select Army units, such as Special Forces or Civil Affairs.  Recent history has made clear that we need expanded levels of cultural and regional awareness in all Army units.  So, in the simplest terms, regionally aligned forces are Army units and leaders – Brigades, Divisions, Corps, and support forces – who focus on a specific region within their normal training program by receiving cultural training and language familiarization.

The regionally aligned forces concept represents an innovative and expanded approach to our ongoing Army security cooperation mission and force management process.  Army Soldiers will become familiar with the region in which they may be tasked to operate.  Soldiers will maintain core combat skills and capabilities while furthering the important business of training and mentoring partner nation security forces.

This concept improves Army support to Geographic Combatant Commands and capitalizes on  the ongoing contributions of the Total Force – Active, Guard, and Reserves– to improve partner capacity, sustain strong relationships, and to assist our Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental and Multinational partners in building a stronger  global security environment.  This combination of skills and knowledge will continue to make U.S. Army units the security partners of choice.

In 2013, we will align a brigade with U.S. Africa Command.  Missions will be conducted primarily by small units from within the brigade, who will deploy to select locations to support small-scale security cooperation activities and annual military exercises.  Brigade Soldiers who are not deployed will continue to train both for U.S. Africa Command requirements and for emergent tasks.

Lessons learned will inform the continued development of the regionally aligned forces concept, and the Army will continue to innovate and adapt its approach toward building the relationships needed to realize the common goals of global security and stability.