WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 29, 2014) – In addition to running mobilization sites, First U.S. Army has been given the mission of focusing on pre-mobilization training of the National Guard and Army Reserve.
This change will result in fewer contractors involved in pre-mob training, said Lt. Gen. Michael S. Tucker, commander, First Army, speaking at the 2014 USARC Commanders Conference in Alexandria, Virginia, July 22.
Over the last 12 years of war, the Guard and Reserve have each “stood up huge training enterprises” for pre-mob training, he said. Now, First Army will coordinate the pre-mob training. It will also continue to conduct the post-mob training at sites such as Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
The new mission focus by First Army goes by the name of “Bold Shift” initiative, and the transition should be completed by the end of 2016, Tucker said.
Manpower will not be increased to do the pre-mob training, he said. However, a different mix of Soldiers will be required in First Army.
For example, a number of field-grade officers will be swapped for warrant officers who have more of the technical expertise that Reserve Components require. First Army’s headquarters staff will also be reduced. All of these personnel decisions were made after a complete mission-essential task review was conducted, Tucker said, and approval for the changes was given by the Army chief of staff.
“It’s a huge undertaking,” Tucker said. “We will partner with the Reserve Components to advise, train, assist, and support to achieve (Army Forces Generation) requirements both pre- and post-mob, through multi-component integrated training.”
The ARFORGEN cycle driving those mobilization requirements has slowed recently.
Thirteen years ago, 190,000 Soldiers were mobilized per year. This year it’s 32,000. Next year will be about 20,000 and then it will settle out to about 10,000 per year, absent new conflicts, Tucker said, with deployments to places like Guantanamo Bay, the Horn of Africa, Multinational Force of Observers and Kosovo Force.
Despite the slowdown, the Army will “still need surge capability,” Tucker said. That function is largely carried out by Reserve troop program units.
As result of the drawdown and lower rate of mobilization, First Army officials said a number of multifunctional training brigade sites will become inactive over the next few years.
Those sites slated to be inactive are: Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; Camp Atterbury, Indiana; Fort Stewart, Georgia; and Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
Those that will remain active are: Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Hood, Texas; and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
TRAIN AS YOU FIGHT
The big take-away from Bold Shift is that First Army will make every effort to ensure that Soldiers in the pre-mob are trained and configured exactly how they will fight, Tucker said.
That means every Soldier training will have every piece of gear he or she would have in a combat situation, he said. In the past, that wasn’t always the case.
Also, there will be no more “bang-bang, you’re dead”-type training where no verification is used. Soldiers and their vehicles will be equipped with the latest Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, he said.
And, he added, training with MILES will be done at night as well.
A pet peeve of Tucker’s is the lack of mission-command training opportunities. Mission command “is the most difficult” aspect of training, he said. “We need to do this better.”
By better, Tucker said he means not only more opportunities for mission command at every leadership level across the components, but also an improved Army Battle Command System that enables each component to talk seamlessly to the other. This might entail something as simple as software upgrades.
Those types of interconnectivity issues need to be hashed out 18 months prior to the pre-mob, he added.
“The Army learned to fight together with all components over the last 12 years. We cannot afford to lose that capability,” he said. “We don’t want to go back to stovepipe training.”
Tucker also promised that all of the commanders’ training objectives will be met.
“I’ll write the scenarios to the way you like them, and if you don’t like them I’ll re-write them,” he said. “And, there will be no artificialities. The training will be as combat-real as possible.”
Tucker said he’s working on a number of other changes to the pre-mob process.
Since Reserve units are often very technical or specialized, a lot of units will arrive to the pre-mob in a piece-meal fashion — without their parent commands. In the past, there was no centralized authority at the training site, and therefore no accountability, in many instances.
“There needs to be more formal authority given to the brigade when they’re in the box,” Tucker said, adding that the idea for that actually came from reserve-component commanders.
Another change Tucker wants to see happen involves cost saving.
In the past, units would bring their own heavy equipment with them over hundreds or thousands of miles, when that same equipment was available near or at the training location at equipment concentration sites, he said.
“If there are 12 bulldozers sitting at the equipment concentration site, why haul six from far away using commercial over-the-road operators?” he asked. “About 70 percent of the cost of a combat training center rotation is transportation.”
Finally, Tucker said he wants to make the pre- and post-mob a great experience for Soldiers.
“I want them to have confidence in their leaders, confidence in their training and confidence in their equipment,” he said. “Our success is your success.”
Following Tucker’s remarks, Lt. Gen. Jeffery W. Talley, chief of the Army Reserve and commander of U.S. Army Reserve Command, expressed confidence in Tucker’s ideas, noting “we have a wonderful relationship with First Army. If you don’t show up at the exercise properly equipped and manned and led, you can’t train the way you fight. This is about leader development, not just about collective training. We’ve got to get this right.”