October 22, 2020


After nearly 15 years, the Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG) and Rapid Equipment Force (REF) are being deactivated.

The primary mission of AWG was to provide advisory support to the U.S. Army. It would do that by rapidly transferring current threat-based operations and solutions to tactical and operational commanders in order to defeat emerging asymmetric threats and enhance multi-domain effectiveness.

AWG was headquartered in Fort Meade, Maryland. It was the only unit within TRADOC with the capability and structure to globally engage warfighters and disseminate observations and information to the rear to enhance soldier survivability. AWG understood that it is vital for the Army to meet emerging threats in order to overmatch all potential adversaries.

AWG had been given three core key tasks: advise, scout, and integrate. It provided operational advisory support to the U.S. Army. It identified capability gaps by observing the operational environment and emerging threats. Finally, it developed, disseminated, demonstrated, and informed solutions to spark change within the fielded and institutional forces.

The AWG soldiers had been hand-selected and put through a rigorous training process to ensure they were the right candidates to make relevant observations and analysis, which would be transferred back to the tactical and operational units. This helped enhance the development and adaptation of our force overall.

“From the theater back to the Pentagon, we articulate what is really happening on the ground, from observation to solution, to either train differently downrange, at the (combat training centers) or the schoolhouses,” Retired Army Lt. Col. Michael Bowman said. Michael Bowman spent 21 years in service before joining AWG 10 years ago as a civilian. He saw the organization work to counter threats from IEDs, drones, and subterranean warfare, and assist in training up the new security force assistance brigades that have come into the Army in recent years.

The REF has played a significant role in counter-drone efforts. Specifically, it fielded anti-drone systems such as Battelle’s Drone defender and Radio Hill Technologies radar gun-like drone buster to help protect units from small commercial UAVs that can easily be armed with homemade bombs.

The REF leadership had been granted authority by the Army to approve urgent requests. Soldiers could fill out a 10-question form to identify problems and request a solution. The REF had a goal of being able to equip soldiers within 180 days of their request.

The Army had the following to say about the imminent disbandment: “The Army established these units to rapidly identify material and non-material solutions to operational challenges encountered during the counter-insurgency fight in Afghanistan and Iraq,” according to the Army’s statement, “As our focus changes to great power competition and large-scale combat operations, Army analysis indicated that the personnel and resources could best be utilized in building the operational fighting force.”

According to the Army’s release, personnel and resources from both units, numbering more than 400 soldiers, will be distributed throughout the force. Both organizations will be fully deactivated by September 30th, 2021.

The Army has not yet decided how it will now use the facility at Fort Meade, which is a common training site for SOF.