All-In: Army Engineers unite in solving global military engineering issues
May 21, 2013
In one of the most momentous occasions in the history of the United States Army Engineer Regiment, the 412th Theater Engineer Command's Engineer TEC-ASCC Planning Exercise (ENTAPE) has proactively brought all of the Army engineering components together to bridge capability gaps in an era of declining resources.
Key officials from the Active Army, United States Army Corps of Engineers, United States Army Reserve Command, United States Army Engineer School, Army National Guard, 416th and 412th TECs collaborated to examine Army Service Component Command's resource deficits and provide cooperative solutions during ENTAPE, May 16-18, 2013, in Orlando, Fla.
Underscoring the importance of this attempt to integrate the Army Engineer Regiment was the number of commanding officers who attended the exercise. Those present were, Maj. Gen. William M. Buckler Jr., commanding general, 412th TEC, Maj. Gen. David J. Conboy, commanding general, 416th TEC, Brig. Gen. Douglas R. Satterfield, deputy commanding general, 412th TEC, Brig. Gen. David L. Weeks, deputy commanding general, 416th TEC, Brig. Gen. Lewis G. Irwin, brigade commander, 926th Engineer Brigade, Brig. Gen. Robert D. Carlson, brigade commander, 372nd Engineer Brigade, Brig. Gen. Tracy A. Thompson, brigade commander, 420th Engineer Brigade, Brig. Gen. Jeff H. Holmes, brigade commander, 194th Engineer Brigade ARNG and John P. Constable, brigade commander, 411th Engineer Brigade.
Maj. Gen. Luis R. Visot, deputy commander (operations), USARC, attended via video teleconference.
"There is a huge amount of emphasis placed on what we are doing here, we are talking about not just the future of the Army Reserve, we are talking about the future of the Army and the Engineer Regiment well beyond 2020," said Lt. Col. Tony Forte, chief of global force management, USARC, during the first day of the exercise.
Each day of the conference focused on a different theme. Day one consisted of "demand signal," in which representatives of six ASCCs outlined specific needs in their area of operations.
The TECs work with six ASCCs in an effort to provide the best available training opportunities for their Soldiers as the United States moves closer toward a time of peace. The 412th TEC is regionally aligned with United States Army Africa, United States Army Europe, and United States Army Pacific, and the 416th TEC is regionally aligned with United States Army Central, United States Army North and United States Army South.
"The TECs' bread and butter is what we do with the regionally-aligned ASCCs," said Maj. Stephen Tribble, G5 plans officer, 416th TEC. "We find ways to help support their operations. With the reduction of the contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, we do theater security cooperation operations with those ASCCs to keep our forces trained and ready."
"First we have to understand the ASCC's operational requirements then we develop solutions and finally supply their issues with engineer resources," said Lt. Col. Jamie Birmingham, chief of operations, 412th TEC.
Conversation during day one included the ASCCs' resource issues in the time of decreasing defense budgets and reductions to the Army and engineer formations.
Everyone works in resources constrained environments, said Tribble. The biggest thing we can bring to the table as Army Reservists is the access to the large body of talent of the TECs. We both have over 12,000 Soldiers each. We have degreed engineers, and we have a variety of different capabilities that we bring to help those ASCCs. The ASCCs do not have enough engineers to support their commander's priorities, and the countries they are in working in request a great deal of support. We are here to discover that balance of what we can support with what assets we have available.
"The by-product of this planning exercise is that we find we have a viable, exciting real world exercise operations for Soldiers to participate in," said Tribble. "They really get to go to a foreign country and use a dozer or build a school. When the time comes where they have to deploy somewhere they will have that skill."
The Day started off with Lt. Col. Chad Walker, deputy chief of staff, engineer, United States Army Pacific, identifying capability gaps of the USARPAC.
Lt. Col. Walker showed the demand signal that is there, said Tribble. A lot of people had no idea there was that much of a need in that region. All day long the six ASCCs explained that same need was shown. Now that there is more work than there are people to do it, it is exciting because we actually see a need, and we know we can fulfill that need. We look forward to continuing to establish relationships with the ASCCs as we have moved to a regionally-aligned force.
A RAF is a force that has habitual relationships in a given area of the world, said Forte. The purpose is to have long histories in these areas with Reserve Components to capitalize that base of knowledge that will be created because of the region being aligned, so we can be more efficient in the future and create opportunities for engagement. These engagements help us avoid conflict by creating an understanding. We want the local populace in the countries to see the United States and the Army reserve as a viable organization.
Day two shifted the flow of information the other way, where representatives from the Engineer School, National Guard, USARC, and USACE exchanged and provided information to the ASCCs. Presentations and discussions were focused on understanding the problems in front of the Army engineers of the future.
The reserve component has adopted the plan of using Army Reserve Engagement Cells to project the engineering capabilities of the component.
At each theater command level we will have this small cell of Army Reservists that work to coordinate efforts between different government agencies explaining and assisting these organizations giving them access to the Army Reserve and the Guard when it is needed, said Forte.
Discussion was led about how the Army Reserve and Army National Guard components want to keep their relationship strong going forward from wartime engagements into a peacetime mission.
"There is not the wall that there use to be between the guard and reserves," said Forte. "What we have learned over ten years is that none of us can do this alone."
The Reserve Component has seen fighting together throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Both the Army Reserve and Army National Guard have assisted each other in humanitarian missions and disaster responses. Hurricane Sandy saw active-duty Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard working together side by side.
"This is the first time I have seen all three (components) in a forum like this working this hard together," said Forte. "We have never taken on an issue this broad with a unified purpose."
"We can hear the issues and elaborate and collaborate on solutions to those issues and provide a joint solution for all the reserve components instead of just for one," said Brig. Gen. Jeff Holmes, deputy chief of engineers, ARNG Affairs.
Between the Army Reserve and the National Guard we represent over 80 percent of the engineer capacity in force structure, and that's very significant, said Holmes. We realize in a unified effort the Army National Guard and Army Reserve together can fulfill those ASCC capability gaps.
The main thrust of the last day's effort was the separate 416th and 412th TEC's breakout sessions were their Soldiers and representatives of their regionally-aligned ASCCs got down into the weeds and knocked out some answers to the support problems identified the first two days of the exercise. ASCC representatives and their counterparts from USACE and the ARNG also discussed concepts of how the reserve component can provide realistic support to their specific ASCCs with the forces they have available within the Army Force Generation cycle.
"I think it was a great session," said and Maj. Scotty Autin, deputy chief of staff, engineer, Army Service Component Command, United States Army Africa, who worked with 412th TEC personnel in the breakout room. "We were able to actually sit down and move from a conceptual view to looking at unit capabilities and assigned those capabilities to projects that we have planned and working through the real details of it."
This is important to USARAF, which does not have any assigned troops. They do have regionally aligned active component brigade, but it only supplies a minimal amount of engineer capabilities, namely sappers. USARAF needs help with technical, construction engineers, and this is exactly what the solutions forged in the breakout sessions will help them with in the future.
What we are answering is what's next, said Col. Adam Roth, deputy assistant commandant, United States Army Engineer School. As we start moving out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we are taking the things we use to do before 9/11 with what we have learned over 10 years of war fighting and are finding those great training solutions. This presents great opportunities to work with our ASCC partners. Being regionally aligned means that across the globe you can have the opportunity for engineers to receive great training.
A common trend of this exercise was the take away for the citizen-soldier.
What we decide here is going to determine how Soldiers train in the future and where they get to train, said Forte. A large quantity of their lives as Army Reservists is going to be determined by what we have done here. Our leaders are engaging in exactly the right things at the right times, and they are doing it with the interest of the individual soldier.
Soldiers want to have purpose and know the mission and know that they are a part of that mission's success, said Birmingham. It is a direct translation to them feeling like their part of a team, utilizing their training, doing real world type of missions and participating in exercise that allow them to show their skills. Everybody wants to be good at what they do, and they want others to see what they do.
We are trying to line up opportunities so that all ranks can feel that they are actually making a difference and their skills are being used to solve some of the world's problems. These opportunities are real and have real outputs. Having come out of two major conflicts and transitioning from an engaging to an operational Reserve demands signals are getting louder for reserve engineers to step up and do more than what they have done prior to 9/11. We are twice the citizens, so we have to balance our professional life and our military life.
The event was unprecedented in its occurrence and ambitious in its scope.
This is definitely historical, because we haven't had the opportunity to get everybody in one room, not only to talk but also to work, and be able to work out plausible solutions as we move forward, said Roth. Nowhere else in the Army is there a two-star engineer command. We happen to have two of those. The TECs are definitely a relevant part of not only our regiment but also to the Army and the joint force in the nation. We have one regiment, and it is the TECs who are able to bring all that together proving that there is relevance in what they do and more importantly that they will be shaping the future of the engineer regiment moving toward the army of 2020.
"It was incredibly valuable to have the two TECs together to interact about issues important to our future," said Conboy. "The hard work that has been done, and begun and still has to continue, is all about the planning piece and ensuring that we're tying in with our customers, the ASCCs and combatant commands, to ensure we stay relevant. We know what the requirements are, and we're working hard to meet those."
Buckler, in his closing remarks, praised the product that was built during the ENTAPE exercise, and the people who help build it. "It's an exciting time right now," he said, "but we're not done."