25 October 2010

Who's Who in the Red Bull Zoo

Friends and family (and media) who are less familiar with military organizations are often puzzled as to how the various pieces and parts of the Red Bull fit together. With more than 3,000 soldiers, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT) is a large, multi-faceted and multi-functional organization.

While I plan someday to discuss individual unit histories in more detail (to include the meanings behind all the pretty colored flags), what follows is a quick primer on each of the battalions comprising the brigade.

The 2-34th BCT is typically composed of three battalion-sized "maneuver" or "warfighting" units, and three supporting units. The maneuver units are:

1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment (1/133rd Inf.). Headquartered in Waterloo, Iowa, with subordinate units located throughout the eastern portions of the state.

1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment (1/168th Inf.). Headquartered in Council Bluffs, Iowa, with subordinate units located throughout the western portions of the state.

1st Squadron, 113 Cavalry Regiment (RSTA) (1/113th Cav.), Headquartered in Sioux City, Iowa, with company-level units in western and central portions of the state. Cavalry units, by the way, call their company-size units "troops," and their battalion-size units "squadrons."

In addition to its maneuver battalions normally assigned to the brigade, the Nebraska Army National Guard's 1st Squadron, 134th Cavalry Regiment (1/134 Cav.) has been attached to Task Force Red Bulls. This unit is headquartered in Hastings, Neb.

Under the modular brigade concept, a brigade combat team also controls units capable of providing the artillery, communications, logistics, and other functions required to keep maneuver units "shooting, moving, and communicating."

In the 2-34th B.C.T., these roles are fulfilled by:

1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery (1/194th F.A.), headquartered in Fort Dodge, Iowa. While the Field Artillery branch of the U.S. Army is considered a combat arms ("warfighting") function, its role on the battlefield is always in support. After all, one does not take and hold territory with artillery, one pulverizes it. Company-size artillery units are called "batteries," by the way.

While sufficient numbers of 1/194th FA soldiers are deploying to Afghanistan to consider much of the unit deployed, at least as far as Army historians are concerned, its officers and soldiers were spread throughout the remainder of the brigade task force.

2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 34th Infantry Division (2/34th B.S.T.B.). Headquartered in Cedar Rapids, this battalion is a collection of technically specialized companies, including engineering, intelligence, and communications. In a unique wrinkle, the 2-34th BCT headquarters company is also administratively and logistically supported by the 2/34th BSTB.

334th Brigade Support Battalion (334th B.S.B.). Headquartered in Johnston, Iowa, is a collection of units specializing in logistics, maintenance, and medical services.

BONUS ROUND: I often field questions from Red Bull families about how to "decode" their soldiers' mailing addresses. ("I thought my soldier was a member of X unit," for example, "what's all this other stuff mean?" Or "Is this the right Facebook page for Y unit? I thought my soldier was in the Red Bulls, but now I'm not sure.") Though multiple attempts at explanation, I've come across this as a helpful way of thinking out things:

A military organization is like a mailing address, starting with house number, and then on to street, town, state, country, etc.

Using this analogy, "A CO, 1/168 IN, 2-34 BCT" can be thought of (and decoded) as "Alpha Company [house], 1st Battalion [street], 168th Infantry Regiment [town], 2nd Brigade Combat Team [state], 34th Infantry Division [country]."

It also explains why saying "my soldier is in Charlie Company" might be a little like saying "I live at 123 Anystreet." People won't know where you live until they get more information--a more detailed "address."

All this military-address stuff might still look like gobbledegook, of course, but perhaps it makes it easier to understand?


  1. The military has always spoken in gobbledygook. I believe that the word gobbledygook is German for Military Acronyms.

  2. @ Tami: Thanks! Still kind of a work in progress ...

    @ Coffeypot: After your note, I had to look up the origins of the word. Wikipedia says (yeah, I know, not always the best of sources--but nearly always entertaining) that, in German, the most applicable phrase would be "professional Chinese." Many Coffeypot-esque quips follow. Check it out at:

  3. My husband tried explaining it with a chart/family tree type thing. Made a little more sense but still isnt sunk in yet.
    I understand there is a new "unit/group" formed specially for this deployment? Still trying to figure how they fit in and who the "bosses" are

  4. @ Anonymous: I tried to avoid the "Organization Chart" approach this time, but you probably saw something like this picture:

    In the current 2-34 BCT configuration, the Field Artillery battalion has been diffused into other parts of the organization. And Nebraska's 1/134th Cavalry Squadron is an additional subordinate unit.

    The "new unit" that you're talking about might a special ad hoc team (there are a couple) specializing in using just-out-of-the-box strategies and technologies, or tasked with working directly with Afghan counterparts. I discussed some of the latter types of teams in this previous post:

    I hope you find some of this helpful. Again, I know it can get confusing--that's why I've been experimenting with so many different ways to present the info!


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