Anywhere, any time—
• Provide mobile, integrated, flexible, readily available forces.
• Furnish highly trained combatant forces under JCS direction and a single responsible commander.
• Afford a display of force capability for cold-war operations.
• Reduce reaction time in dealing decisively with any type of aggression. • Integrate Army’s CONARC and USAF’s TAC operations.
• Enhance joint planning and training.
• Develop joint doctrine in combined deployment of land and tactical air forces.
These are the jobs of the nation’s newest unified command.
Mainstay of the Saturday-night television gallery is a heroic character of the old west named Paladin, gifted with a pistol, who responds with finesse and devastating effect when summoned to contend with men of evil intent.
In modern dress, Paladin would fit right in with the men of the United States Strike Command, newest of the unified commands, with headquarters at MacDill AFB, Fla.
A primary mission of USSTRICOM—STRIKE for short—is to be prepared to respond swiftly, and with whatever degree of force may be necessary, to threats against the peace in any part of the free world.
To carry out its mission, STRIKE may call upon any or all combat-ready elements of the Tactical Air Command (TAC) and the Continental Army Command (CONARC), together with the airlift required to deposit the strike force promptly at the scene of trouble.
Commander in Chief of the US Strike Command—CINCSTRIKE—is Gen. Paul DeWitt Adams. A World War II Ranger in the Aleutians and Italy, a division commander in Korea, the man who led US forces ashore in Lebanon in 1958, and co-commander of several recent Army-Air Force joint exercises, fifty-five-year-old General Adams is well versed in the varied aspects of his job.
His Deputy Commander in Chief is Lt. Gen. Bruce K. Holloway, forty-nine, who flew for General Chennault in China and in 1946 commanded USAF’s first jet fighter group. As Deputy Commander of TAC’s Ninth Air Force in the mid-’50s, he contributed to development of new fighter concepts, and then as Director of Operational Requirements in the Pentagon guided development of the TFX.
STRIKE came into being on September 19 of last year when Secretary of Defense McNamara established the command’s mission in response to President Kennedy’s concern over Communist “nibbling” aggression. General Adams was named Commander in Chief. Soon thereafter General Adams met in Washington with General Holloway and other key officers designated for the new command, including Maj. Gen. Clyde Box of TAC, now STRIKE’s J-5, Plans, and Maj. Gen. Clifton F. von Kann, then chief of Army aviation and now J-3, Operations. By mid-December the command headquarters was fully manned, and General Adams declared it operational on December 28.
As an indication of the speed and urgency with which STRIKE was set up, none of the personnel assigned to its headquarters took any leave en route from their former stations. Nor did anyone get leave during the Christmas holidays.
“Never before,” said General Adams recently, “has a command with the scope and responsibility of STRIKE been organized and started functioning in so short a period.”
The Joint Chiefs of Staff directive to General Adams listed two major mission elements—to provide general reserve combat-ready forces to reinforce other unified commands, and to plan and execute contingency operations as directed by the Joint Chiefs.
The United States now has seven unified commands. They are the Pacific, Alaskan, Caribbean, Atlantic, and European commands, North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), and now STRIKE.
The Lebanon crisis of 1958, in which General Adams played a key role, offers an example illustrating STRIKE’s mission in more concrete terms. When it seemed that communism might capitalize on internal weaknesses in Lebanon to gain a foothold there, the President of Lebanon appealed to the United States for military support to maintain order. US forces based in Europe were hastily moved to Lebanon by air and ship, and the Communist threat was effectively dissipated. Meanwhile, however, the reassignment of US personnel from Europe to Lebanon weakened certain other of our positions, and command relationships of our forces in Lebanon were confused. In time, European positions were reinforced, command responsibilities were cleared up, and, in that instance, no harm was done.
But a familiar military tactic which has been practiced by the Communists in the past is to feint aggression in one part of the world, only to strike elsewhere when we are off balance. The mission of STRIKE, then, is to provide augmentation forces needed to meet any unexpected threat without weakening our prepared defenses.
If such a threat were to develop in a part of the world covered by one of our unified commands, STRIKE would furnish the theater commander the amount of augmentation forces he asked for, and they would be deployed as the theater commander thought best.
If, however, the threat were to occur in an area outside the immediate jurisdiction of a theater commander, CINCSTRIKE might command the forces himself or through a task-force commander appointed by him.
With the advent of STRIKE, no chief of an individual service now exercises operational control–over any of his combat-ready forces. In every instance where such forces might be employed, they would do so under control of one of the unified or specified commands.
When you are fighting a fire, it is important to act swiftly before the fire has a chance to spread. The same concept applies to brushfire wars. A small force arriving on the scene within twenty-four hours would be more effective than a much larger force arriving later.
STRIKE is geared for swift reaction. Not only does the command insist that its contingency forces be airtransportable—”if we can’t fly it in,” says General Adams, “we haven’t got it”—but the force, including its commander and staff, is prepared to parachute into the trouble zone if necessary. General Adams is an experienced parachutist. General Holloway has just completed jump-school training and now wears the Army’s Parachutist badge. A steady flow of USAF members of STRIKE is now going through the course at Fort Benning, Ga. STRIKE’s Army personnel are, in virtually every instance, either qualified parachutists or Army pilots.
Despite its formidable title and high-ranking leadership, STRIKE’s headquarters includes only 300 military personnel, half officers, half enlisted men, split almost fifty-fifty between Army and Air Force. Attached to STRIKE Headquarters is a communications support element with 311 people, equipped to provide worldwide communications wherever the CINC may go. The communications element, too, is manned half by Army, half by Air Force people.
But STRIKE is assigned continuous operational control of all combat-ready units of TAC and CONARC, and calls on them for whatever it needs. In STRIKE’s command post are listed the strength and location of all TAG and GONARG elements. If TAG or CONARC wants to shift the location of any unit in their command, they must check in first with STRIKE for approval before making the move.
These forces include a dozen TAG fighter and reconnaissance wings and eight Army divisions, airborne, armored, and infantry.
But since these combat forces assigned to STRIKE already existed in TAG and CONARC, what are the particular contributions of this new unified command? General Adams has set them forth in the following terms:
First, it provides mobile, integrated, flexible, and readily available military forces.
Second, it furnishes these forces under JCS direction and a single responsible commander.
Third, it affords a display of force capability for cold-war operations.
Fourth, it reduces US reaction time in dealing decisively and resolutely with any type of aggression.
Fifth, it facilitates integration of GONARC and TAG operations.
Sixth, it enhances the conduct of joint planning and joint training as directed by the JCS, and
Seventh, it provides an organization to develop joint doctrine for the combined employment of land and tactical air forces.
“We feel that the STRIKE Command will substantially increase the flexibility, readiness, and combat efficiency of the forces available to it,” General Adams said in an address soon after assuming command. “We also feel that the STRIKE Command will represent a potent deterrent force and will add to our military posture the kind of strength needed to give us, in the President’s own words’. . . a wider choice than humiliation or all-out nuclear action.”
STRIKE leaders are careful to explain, too, that “conventional” does not necessarily mean “nonnuclear.”
“The choices of action open to STRIKE forces range from no weapons to nuclear weapons,” General Holloway has remarked.
The refinement of our conventional warfare capability is being undertaken to meet an apparent shift in Soviet military strategy. Having concluded that global war for the time being (and no one knows how long or short this time may be) involves unacceptable risks, Khrushchev has directed Communist energies toward what he calls “wars of liberation or popular uprisings.” But we cannot afford to forget that the wide choice of responses available to STRIKE in combating such “uprisings” is possible only because STRIKE forces are covered by our powerful nuclear delivery systems.
Secretary McNamara emphasized this point in a recent speech when he remarked that America’s guerrilla capabilities is an important option growing from our nuclear deterrent missiles and bombers.
He said, “The first requirement for such a policy is clearly to maintain our nuclear strike power as a realistic, effective deterrent against Soviet initiation of major wars. The Soviet decision to concentrate on wars of covert aggression was not taken in a power vacuum.”
STRIKE is keeping its forces busy to indoctrinate them in joint operations. From January 1962 to June 1963, STRIKE will be engaged in twenty-seven joint exercises, plus others which may be laid on without notice. Even before its headquarters were operational last December, STRIKE took charge of Exercise Trail Break in the Griffiss AFB-Camp Drum area of upstate New York. In February, STRIKE forces participated in Great Bear in Alaska, Great Shelf in the Philippines, Banyan Tree III in the Caribbean. May exercises include one in the Atlantic theater, another in the Fort Bragg, N. C., sector. In June STRIKE forces join in maneuvers in Western Europe.
Members of STRIKE’s headquarters staff are also “exercised” at frequent intervals, and on extremely short notice. Alert orders require designated members of the staff to report in thirty minutes and be prepared to depart within two hours. Destination may be literally almost anywhere in the world. Against such contingencies, each headquarters member has three bags already packed and stored near the flight line, one for the Arctic, one for the tropics, a third for general use. Along with the orders go instructions to operations to load the appropriate bag on the plane.
Two exercises this spring merit special attention. In Track Down in April at Fort Hood, Tex., and Clear Lake in May at Eglin AFB, Fla., STRIKE will seek to test and review air-support doctrine and techniques. To make conditions as realistic as possible both ground and air units will use live fire.
“STRIKE can bring to these joint exercises a formal degree of planning and execution that we have never had before,” General Holloway explained. “With single control, we can inject more realism and assure a better approach to evaluating air-ground doctrine.”
The subject of tactical air support of ground forces occupies considerable attention among STRIKE leaders.
“Since we are charged by the Joint Chiefs of Staff with developing joint doctrine pertaining to the forces assigned to this command,” General Adams noted, “we maintain a lively interest in the subject, and when changes appear appropriate we will, after testing any proposed changes, make appropriate recommendations to the JCS.”
But, for the present at least, STRIKE is going along with the doctrine developed and employed during World War II. “Air superiority, battlefield isolation, direct support—these are still the main tasks of tactical airpower,” General Holloway said.
“The F-105 was designed to do all these things. The F-110 possesses very useful capabilities. And the TFX is even further oriented toward that objective.”
General Holloway lists three “freedoms” which he expects to see achieved in the TFX. Freedom from concrete, freedom from tankers, freedom from specialization. He has little doubt that such a plane can be built.
“Our early jets were limited in capability. But the state of the art is reaching the point where we can expect to come up with a jet comparable in versatility to the late piston fighters,” General Holloway said.
General von Kann, who before joining STRIKE had been in charge of Army aviation, was asked about reports that some Army officers are still dissatisfied with the degree of close air support the Air Force can provide, and would like to see the Army acquire its own close-support aircraft.
“Yes, we’ve had some discussions on the subject,” he replied. “Some infantry officers have mentioned the Marines’ system of close support. But they forget that Marine ground-air requirements are different. Marines don’t have the variety of artillery employed in the Army.”
“There are things we can do to improve our system. Part of the problem is in the Army’s request network. Because our Army people often call for air strikes on targets that are better suited for their own artillery, we lose time checking requests through the Army’s fire-support control centers. The Marines go direct. But it’s the system that causes the lag—not the Air Force’s readiness to respond.”
He said he thought Marine pilots were better ground-oriented because fighter pilots are rotated in forward air-controller duties. But he added that Tactical Air Command pilots are now being given more intensive ground orientation.
“It helps to know each other’s problems more intimately,” he said, “just as we are learning from each other here at STRIKE. I’ve gained a new perspective on the subject. I think I may have made one or two Army points with General Holloway.
“But the Army does not intend to get into the Air Force’s air-support tasks. The purpose of Army aviation is to improve our mobility—to do things better than we can do them with surface vehicles.”
As this exchange between General Holloway and General von Kann demonstrates, the men of STRIKE are giving renewed attention to the problems of air-ground operations in conventional war conditions.
Clearly, STRIKE, young though it is, is already prepared to back up these words of President Kennedy, contained in his defense message of a year ago:
“Any potential aggressor contemplating an attack on any part of the free world with any kind of weapons, conventional or nuclear, must know that our response will be suitable, selective, swift, and effective.