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As 212th Fires Brigade re-flags, DIVARTYs begin a comeback

Jul. 23, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
The Salute Battery of 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment renders honors during the re-flagging of 212th Fires Brigade to 1st Armored Division Artillery on Wednesday Fort Bliss, Texas.
The Salute Battery of 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment renders honors during the re-flagging of 212th Fires Brigade to 1st Armored Division Artillery on Wednesday Fort Bliss, Texas. (Army)
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1st AD DIVARTY (Army)
Col. Heyward G. Hutson III (Army)

The first step in the Army’s revamped artillery organization — one that will look familiar to some senior officers — took place Wednesday at Fort Bliss, Texas, when the 212th Fires Brigade re-flagged to become the 1st Armored Division Artillery.

The Army has been without such units, called DIVARTYs, since 2004, when a move toward modularity included a redeployment of artillery assets within the command chain for much of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It also led to some units going extended periods without sharpening some of their artillery skills. The new setup is designed to build those skills back up — fast.

“As a battalion commander [of 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment], I deployed to Baghdad as a maneuver task force,” said Col. Heyward Hutson, commander of the new DIVARTY and head of the 212th until early Wednesday. “And though I took my 16 howitzers with me, they remained in the motorpool for nine months.”

This new setup “puts the entire artillery system of systems under the watchful eye of an artilleryman,” Hutson said, allowing soldiers to quickly re-master “core competencies that we’ve lost in 12 years of war.”

It will also allow the creation of a single standard throughout a division, making it easier for soldiers to move from battalion to battalion without relearning their jobs. The structure also creates more flexibility for junior officers, allowing them to round out their skill set by taking on different tasks.

Each of the Army’s 10 divisions will have a DIVARTY in about two years, Army officials said, either through re-flagging similar to Wednesday’s ceremony or standing up a new unit. Some fires brigades will remain in service, including National Guard units and a unit in Korea.

Other than a new name — the unit had Facebook and Twitter pages stood up well before the ceremony — soldiers may not see immediate changes, Hutson said, but “over time, what they’ll see is their training, their focus become more fires-related.”

The new setup itself won’t cost the artillery community any billets, but DIVARTYs won’t make the group immune to the drawdown.

“As the Army shrinks and we prepare ourselves for potential contingencies, we’ll be a smaller force,” said Hutson, who took over the 212th in July 2013, “but we have to maintain our same level of lethality.”

The conversion had been set for October but was moved up by Maj. Gen. Sean MacFarland, head of 1st AD and Fort Bliss, “because he understood we were prepared to do so,” Hutson said.

The move adds another layer to the complicated history of the artillery units. Both the 212th and the 1st AD’s DIVARTY can trace a lineage back to World War II, even though the division’s last DIVARTY cased its colors in 2007 in Germany and the 212th stood up in its current form in 2011 at Bliss.

But the return to a previous naming convention won’t change everything, Hutson said.

“We’re not going back to the DIVARTYs of old,” he said. “The field artillery battalions remain organic to the brigade combat teams. They’re attached to me for training and readiness.”

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