In the Army, there are two types of units, Army MTOE units and TDA units. My goal today is to educate you about the difference between the two, so you can be informed. I’ve been fortunate enough to serve in both types of units, so I will share my insights and experiences toward the end of this article.
What is an Army MTOE?
MTOE is an Army acronym that stands for Modification Table of Organizational Equipment. Here is a simple definition I found online that can help explain it.
A table of organization and equipment (TOE or TO&E) is a document published by the U.S. Department of Defense which prescribes the organization, staffing, and equipage of units. Also used in acronyms as ‘T/O’ and ‘T/E’.
It also provides information on the mission and capabilities of a unit as well as the unit’s current status. A general TOE is applicable to a type of unit (for instance, infantry) rather than a specific unit (the 3rd Infantry Division). In this way, all units of the same branch (such as Infantry) follow the same structural guidelines. ~ Liquisearch.com
In my own words, an Army MTOE is a listing of authorized equipment and staffing for an Army unit. It’s what the unit is supposed to have on hand for equipment and personnel.
What Are MTOE Units?
In reality, an MTOE unit is a deployable, go-to-war unit. It’s the units that deploy, or can deploy.
This could include a Signal Company, Infantry Battalion, Armor Brigade, Stryker Battalion, Field Artillery Battery, and so forth. The units within a DIVISION are typically all MTOE units (with only a few exceptions). Any subordinate unit within a division is an MTOE unit. That’s the easiest way I can think of to explain it.
In a MTOE unit all personnel are military, and the unit can be deployed anywhere in the world. Some current MTOE organizations have TDA augmentations, which may include civilians and foreign personnel to assist in performing their non-tactical missions. These augmentations are non-deployable, however.
Once again, MTOE units are operational Army field units. These are the combat, combat support, and combat service support units that deploy, fight, and win wars.
In the Army National Guard, there are more than 1,400 MTOE units. These include infantry, artillery, armor, engineer, military police, signal, quartermaster, maintenance, medical, and many other types of go-to-war units. MTOE units are often referred to as line units. That’s why you will sometimes hear staff officers and NCOs say “I wish I was back in the line.”
A few example Army MTOE units include:
An Army Unit MTOE prescribes the normal mission, organizational structure, and personnel and equipment requirements for a military unit and is the basis for an authorization document. Units are constituted and activated in accordance with an approved MTOE or modified MTOE.
In some unique instances, a MTOE conversion might happen. For instance an Engineer Battalion could be activated to serve as a Transportation Battalion. This happens a lot, especially with deployments for Army National Guard and Army Reserve units.
Here’s what I found in Army Regulation 220-5 about MTOE Conversions.
Any action that changes the organizational structure, designation, assignment, or location of a military unit is a change in the status of that unit. Unit status changes are made a matter of record for legal and historical purposes. CMH records constitutions, activations, inactivations, designations, redesignations, consolidations, reorganizations, assignments, permanent changes of station, and similar actions concerning the unit and its organic elements.
A change in the status of a unit may require issuing orders by the commander of the ACOM or ASCC to which the unit is assigned or by a subordinate commander to whom the action has been delegated (see table 2–1). Orders, when used, will announce the action taken and the effective date of the change. The effective date is the date specified in the orders or the date of the orders if no effective date is specified.
If you’re trying to learn more about MTOE Conversions, I would read AR 220-5.
TDA stands for Table of Distribution and Allowances. To keep things simple, a TDA unit is a non-deployable unit, even when they are assigned overseas, whereas an MTOE unit is a deployable unit. Does that make sense?
From what I found online “TDA units are organized to perform specific missions for which there are no appropriate TOEs and are discontinued as soon as their assigned missions have been accomplished.” Their missions are typically tied to a specific region or geographical area.
Some example TDA units might include:
- Base or Installation MPs
- School House
- Base Hospital
Which Types of Units are Better?
Both types of units have an important role in the U.S. Army. The warfighters require a huge amount of support (from other MTOE units and TDA units).
I personally believe the MTOE units are the most important type of Army units. Why? Because they perform the Army’s mission: to find and win our nation’s land battles. Without these go-to-war units, there is no fighting force.
As a Soldier, I believe EVERYONE should start out in MTOE units. This is where you develop your basic Soldiering and leadership skills. This is where you become a “warrior.” If you decide to transition to a TDA unit later in your career, that’s great!
I’d also say that the OPTEMPO in a MTOE unit is normally much busier than in TDA units. You have training exercises and deployments to worry about, whereas in most TDA units, it’s more of a 9 to 5 job (with some exceptions).
I only served in one TDA unit in my career and I absolutely hated it. I’ll stick with MTOE units! But that’s just my opinion.
In conclusion, an Army MTOE unit is a deployable go-to-war unit and a TDA unit is a non-deployable unit.
These MTOE units are the bread and the butter of the U.S. Army. They are staffed by the men and women who deploy and protect our great nation. As a Soldier, NCO or Officer, you should spend as much time as possible in MTOE units. That way, you are technically and tactically proficient.
Tell us, what type of unit would you rather serve in? Why? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think. I would also enjoy hearing any other comments you may have on this subject.
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14 thoughts on “Army MTOE and TDA Unit Information”
I’m in a TDA unit right now – an OC/T unit. First time. I served in the line the last 18 years. The OPTEMPO is really slow and easy. This maybe my terminal assignment until I drop my retirement. I love it. At one point in time, we senior leaders need to transfer our experience and knowledge to the “new guys” and set them up for success. In a TDA unit, you can take the prone as long as you get the mission done.
I’ve served for 26 years now and been around since Desert Storm era. I’ve done everything from Trans. CO. to MP BN on the MTOE side of house. I’ve also served in JFHQ to PEC as a PBO (schoolhouse) in TDA status. I agree with you about the importance of each. Experience in a MTOE is detrimental to understanding the true nature as a Warrior/Soldier. After serving in each though, I see the necessity in assuring Soldiers are equipped and trained. There are a lot of “behind the scene” battles that assure our Soldiers are well-equipped to fight on the battlefield. Experience is needed on the front line but it is a detriment in the rear to assure everything is in place for our young Warriors. I personally at my stage of the gameplan prefer the TDA side of the house.
Thank you for sharing that Kevin. You are correct, there is so much that people do not see or understand that keeps our soldiers supplied and trained to be great warriors.
Google “detriment”. I’m not sure that word means what you think it means.
Why does the Army not want a Soldier to go TDA to TDA. I understand that TDA is non-deployable, but my situation is that I am in a TDA and have only been here for 18 months. My unit is going away soon and I am pending orders for another TDA. My branch manager told me that I would need a TDA to TDA waiver. What gives? I have two tours down range and a trip to South Korea. I have not really served very much time in a TDA so should this be an issue? I am mostly looking for the WHY (the Army does not want Soldiers going TDA to TDA)?
I’m not 100% sure on the Army’s reasoning, but in my own opinion, Soldiers going from TDA to TDA are avoiding their primary responsibility of being a Soldier first. Serving in deployable, go-to-war, MTOE units is something everyone should do frequently throughout their career.
It's important you get at least some experience in the front line units, even if you expect or prefer to spend your time in the TDA units. I don't think anyone should feel lesser for being in a non-combat unit. Sometimes the front line personnel can think that the military revolves around them. However, without the support personnel there is no front. I would try to spend the majority of my time in the more comfortable (for your skills and temperament) section.
I guess it is a personal decision. I like the line units myself.
I wouldn’t mind working in a schoolhouse after I’ve had plenty of time in the operational Army. However, I wouldn’t want to be one of those people that hides in TDA units to avoid going anywhere.
Exactly. I believe “line” Soldiers are a great resources for TDA units, because of their experience. I just believe it should be a short, temporary assignment, not a career of jumping from TDA to TDA to avoid deployments.
Thank you for providing guidance to those in a Company Commander position about choosing assignments. Sometimes it’s hard to make the right career decision because you don’t always know what the options are. I appreciate how you are always helping Army Officers figure out their next step in a very helpful way.
Glad to be of help. The advice mentioned above about serving in MTOE or TDA units applies to any Soldier in the military. I personally believe having a diverse, well rounded experience will make you a better Soldier and leader. It gives you added experience you can draw upon in future assignments.
It is extremely important for PLs and other line leaders to understand what compromises their MTOE. Understanding your MTOE will allow you to develop you battle rosters, make changes and suggestions to Task Organizations (i.e. for missions, etc.) You would be surprised how many leaders do not what what compromises their MTOE, especially their EQUIPMENT! Take the time to study your MTOE and print out a diagram for a quick reference…
Yes, it behooves any company level leader to get a copy of their unit’s MTOE, especially for their section. Make the time to study it and ensure you have the authorized equipment and personnel, and that you are leveraging these resources to the fullest extent possible.