Brig. Gen. Abrams reflects on tenure at Fort Irwin and National Training Center
January 31, 2011
FORT IRWIN, Calif.-Fort Irwin and National Training Center commanding general Brig. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams can't look at any one thing and say it's what he's most proud of during his nearly two years in command in the High Desert.
Brig. Gen. Abrams will relinquish command to Brig. Gen. Terry Ferrell on Feb. 7.
"There's so many things the National Training Center has accomplished over the last two years that to neck it down to one thing would be a disservice to everyone," he said.
One thing he has seen occur during the past two years is the emergence of a unity of effort across all the different organizations on Fort Irwin, he noted, which has helped the training center continue to adapt and remain ahead of the requirements in training units for deployment.
"The amount of adaptation that has occurred in the last two years has been phenomenal and that's certainly not me doing it," he said. "It's that combination of everyone, all hands rowing at the same time, giving way together to ensure that we are providing that tough, realistic relevant training that makes NTC the premiere training center in the world."
The past year has been marked by transition as rotations have gone from being Iraq-focused to Afghanistan-focused with a full-spectrum rotation coming in seven months.
"We've done all this with an eye to the future because clearly our mission here is preparing units for deployment," he said. "We don't ever want to lose sight of that, but the truth is in this last year we've had to have our eye to the future."
The first full spectrum rotation against a hybrid threat will take place in seven months, he said.
"So while we've simultaneously been prepping units for combat the team here at NTC has set the conditions for a great hybrid threat rotation," he said.
Although much of his focus has been on training at Fort Irwin, Brig. Gen. Abrams noted that almost every month during his command has been punctuated by a ribbon-cutting of either a new facility or renovated facility to improve the quality of life for the Soldiers, families, Department of the Army civilians and contractors who work out in the High Desert.
Yet, one stands out of the rest: Fort Irwin becoming a formal member of the Inland Country Emergency Medical Agency (ICEMA) in June 2010, he said.
"We have paramedics on post. We have paramedics and air ambulance. We have a communications architecture for us to plug into the San Bernardino Emergency Management Activity," he said. "That was long overdue, more so than moving the headquarters, because we all know that the nearest trauma facilities are over 160 miles away."
The emergency medical response capability was essential, and even it though it came about as the result of a tragedy, it was the right thing to do, he said.
"That capability has saved lives and will continue to save lives," he said.
Fort Irwin and the National Training Center entered the Social Media realm during Brig. Gen. Abrams tenure and he admitted he's still scratching the surface himself.
"I personally embrace it. It's just part of our life in my house. It's how we stay connected," he said. "We train units how to flatten their network to be able to attack enemy networks. We've got to get everybody on post to flatten our network and embrace this thing."
While the training center has made progress, there's still more work to do, he said, noting, "Communications is critical especially on this little desert oasis we live in."
Before Brig. Gen. Abrams set foot on the ground in the High Desert he said he knew what made the training center work wasn't the technology, things, stuff, buildings and so forth, but the people.
"What makes this place work is we've got the very best military and civilian leaders. We've got great Soldiers and DA civilians and we've got a great contract workforce and it takes all of them collectively to pull off what we do," he said. "The high quality we deliver is a function of the people we have, not the stuff, not the buildings, not the technology; it is about the people."
At the end of every rotation Brig. Gen. Abrams said he sits back and reflects on what it is that the training center puts into the training and said he's always astounded at the amount of energy, effort, expertise, commitment, selflessness, dedication from everybody.
"You can see in their eyes that everybody involved gives their all every rotation; you can see it their faces," he said.
Yet all that effort requires a great deal of sacrifice by families because for all those people who give that amount of commitment and dedication it means they're not with their families, he said.
"We've got desert tough, resilient families at Fort Irwin who continue to sacrifice and contribute to our mission here, and I am humbled by what it is they do, what they sacrifice and what they do for our country," Brig. Gen. Abrams said. "It's not insignificant what it is they give up to come out and here support their Soldier and live out here in the High Desert. I'll be forever appreciative of all the sacrifice of everybody out here. It's just been impressive."