The Army recognizes three general types of combat forces - armored, light, and SOF.
Armored and light infantry forces are not routinely mixed but can be effective given the proper situation. One advantage of mixing armored and light infantry forces is that the maneuver commander has more flexibility in synchronizing his operation. Light infantry can infiltrate to attack key command and control nodes, for example, while mechanized infantry creates a penetration for an armored task force to exploit. The mechanized infantry can then follow and support the armored task force, while light infantry air assaults or parachutes to continue to seize key terrain or to cut off enemy forces.
- Armored forces are armor and mechanized/motorized infantry units.
- Light infantry forces have no organic carriers, including airborne and air assault infantry.
- SOF support conventional military operations at all levels of war and influence deep, close, and rear operations. SOF are used optimally in deep operations at the strategic and operational level. SOF include Army Special Forces, Rangers, PSYOP, CA, and Army special operations aviation.
The Army designs its force structure to achieve the agility and versatility necessary to execute a variety of operations plans (OPLANs) and concept plans (CONPLANs), to include campaigns. All forces are considered contingency forces. Army units are configured to allow force expansion through designation as forward-presence, crisis-response, early reinforcement, follow-on reinforcement, and reconstitution forces.Forward-presence units are those US active component forces and reserve forces assigned or deployed overseas in a specific theater. These forces display the resolve of the US in supporting its national interests around the world. They are the initial forces available to an OCONUS CINC to counter potential threats. The reduced size of the US Army dictates that forward presence units, including CS and CSS units, be trained and prepared to deploy to other regional areas in support of our national defense policies. Crisis-response forces (CRFs) are AC and RC, CONUS-based units, but also include forward-presence units. They are trained and configured to deploy anywhere in the world, based on the unit's deployability posture. All AC units, including combat, CS, and CSS units, must be prepared to deploy and support a combatant unit that has a mission to respond to a crisis. Units conducting Combat Training Center (CTC) rotations and subsequent stand-downs must maintain the capability to deploy when required. Reserve component CS and CSS units must be prepared to support all deployment operations. Early reinforcement forces (ERFs) consist primarily of AC divisions (CONUS-and OCONUS-based) and associated echelons above division (EAD) and EAC support elements (both AC and RC). RC round-out and round-up brigades are available to add combat power to AC divisions designated as ERFs. Additional reserve component CS and CSS units will provide support to ERFs. ERF units may be required to respond to a second major regional contingency in another theater. Follow-on reinforcement forces (FRFs), primarily National Guard divisions, brigades, and associated EAD and EAC support elements, are trained and deployed for protracted operations. These forces include units that replace or augment forward-presence units that have deployed to other regions for protracted operations. Reconstitution is the ability to maintain continuously, in sufficient measure, the capability to create additional forces beyond those in the active and reserve units retained in the base force. Reconstitution is also the process of creating additional forces to deter an emerging global threat from competing militarily with the United States, and, should such deterrence fail, to provide a global warfighting capability. Reconstitution forces may be comprised of regeneration assets, industrial/ technology base assets, and manpower assets. The commander is responsible for the overall success of unit operations. The commander receives missions from higher headquarters, decides how assets are to be employed, and directs the execution of operational plans. The command relationships of the unit are organic, assigned, attached, OPCON, and TACON.
Organic assets are assigned to and forming an essential part of a military organization. Organic assets are those listed in the unit's MTOE, and are in this command relationship when conducting missions in support of their own unit. Assigned is to place units or personnel in an organization where such placement is relatively permanent, and/or where such organization controls or administers the unit or personnel for the primary functions of the unit. As in organic, units will have this relationship when C2 is exercised by their parent headquarters. Attached is the placement of units or personnel in an organization where such placement is relatively temporary. The commander of the unit that receives the attachment is responsible for the sustainment and logistics support that is beyond the capability of the attached unit. An example of this relationship is a cargo helicopter platoon being attached to a division for the duration of an operation.The support relationships of unit are Direct Support and General Support.
Operational Control OPCON is a "ommand relationship that gives a commander the authority over subordinate forces to organize and employ the assets, designate objectives, assign tasks, and give direction regarding accomplishment of the mission. The commander exercising OPCON authority has no responsibility for logistics sustainment of the supporting unit.Tactical Control TACON is a command relationship that gives a commander authority over assigned or attached forces or commands, or military capability or forces made available for tasking, that is limited to the detailed, and, usually, local direction and control of movements or maneuvers necessary to accomplish missions or tasks assigned.
Direct Support [DS] is a mission requiring a force to support another specific force and authorizing it to answer directly to the supported force's request for assistance. When operating in a DS role, missions can be coordinated directly between the assigned unit and the supported unit.General Support [GS] is the support that is given to the supported force as a whole and not to any particular subdivision thereof. Units may be placed in GS to several units , receiving missions from their parent headquarters based upon support priorities established by commanders. When operating in a GS role, the supported unit must request support from the appropriate headquarters.