5 years, thousands of troops: First Army Division East transforms to remain relevant
March 6, 2012
As First Army Division East celebrates its fifth anniversary, their mission of mobilizing, training, deploying and demobilizing Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen not only remains their focus, but they plan to expand the training provided to Reserve Component units.
Headquartered at Fort Meade, Md., 1AE is a multi-component team of nearly 6,000 Active Duty, Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, and civilians. The team operates across the eastern half of the United States and territorities comprising eight brigades and 52 battalions located at Fort Stewart, Ga.; Fort Knox, Ky.; Camp Atterbury, Ind.; Camp Shelby, Miss.; and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
"First Army Division East operates as a joint team," said Command Sergeant Major Edwin Rodriguez. "Whether someone is a Soldier, or a civilian, everyone works together to man, equip, train, deploy, and demobilize U.S. Reserve Component forces; the experience that everyone brings to the fight make us more effective training division.
From its inception on March 7, 2007, 1AE has mobilized nearly 200,000 service members and demobilized more than 45,000 Reserve Component Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen deploying into, and from, global overseas contingency operations in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Horn of Africa.
When those same Soldiers come home, 1AE again stands at the ready to provide Focused Soldier Care and transition them back into their civilian lives. Just recently, during the Iraq drawdown, the 1AE demobilized more than 7,000 troops.
"First Army Division East personnel again showed us that they are preeminent in demobilization support to returning troops regardless of a surge or normal demob operations," said Brig. Gen. Steven Huber, First Army Division East deputy commanding general -- operations.
A TRANSFORMING DIVISION
As the Army begins transforming, drawing down and adjusting missions, First Army Division East is following suit.
Over the past five years, 1AE has continually transformed to meet the requirements of training, mobilizing and demobilizing RC forces. Initially, the division encompassed six mobilization stations and 10 brigades. Over the past few years, however, it has been restructured to a leaner, more efficient formation. The division now operates at three mobilization training centers and has eight brigades supporting 52 battalions.
Despite these changes, the division's mission continues to be met without fail.
"The 1AE mission is intact; however, it is scaled back to a great extent," said Maj. Marcus Buckner, battle captain on the Division Watch Team. "The reorganization helped the division to logistically and fiscally streamline its training, deploying and demobilizing operations for the units serviced," he added.
Buckner went on to say that the division now more evenly matches the Army's downsized throughput to leaner trainable sustainable levels.
Recently, 1AE began planning and training for two additional missions: the Security Force Assistance Team and Contingency Expeditionary Forces training.
Currently, more than 140 First Army senior officers and noncommissioned officers are training and preparing to deploy in support of the SFAT mission. The teams will deploy for nine-months to assist Afghan army and police units improve their logistics, intelligence, maintenance, administration and training capabilities.
The CEF mission is also a new concept for 1AE. Until recently, 1AE only trained units with valid deployment orders. However, with the recent withdrawal in Iraq, the coming drawdown in Afghanistan and the overall shrinking of the force, ensuring the Operational Reserves maintain their training proficiency is a mission 1AE is more than ready to tackle.
Throughout 1AE's transformation, one thing that has never changed is the quality their trainer mentors and depth of the training.
"First Army East has resourced the latest equipment so that troops deploying through its mobilization training centers are trained to the same standards as the national combat training centers," said Darryl Egler, First Army Division East G3 chief of training. "This equipment includes mine/metal detectors, electronic warfare kits, explosive hazard detection kits, and escalation of force packages."
"1AE sends selected trainer/mentors to the First Army Master Trainer Course at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, to ensure that they all have the most up-to-date training methods on counter-IED operations," said Egler.
Egler further explained that T/Ms stay current by constantly reviewing trends from theater and integrating operations with multiple outside agencies that focus on improving efforts, such as the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization and the Center for Army Lessons Learned.
"Beyond that, personnel attend recurring teleconferences and video televised conferences with a variety of agencies focused on providing the most current information from theater, mainly from the Infantry War Fighter Forum and the Training Community of Interest VTC with U.S. Forces-Afghanistan," he added.
Over the past five years, division staff and trainer/mentors have also improved the facilities where deploying units are trained.
Ranges have been built at all MTCs that replicate overseas operating environments -- focused primarily on Afghanistan -- with authentic buildings, atmospherics, and role players, he said. Currently, all three MTCs are experiencing upgrades for training support.
"As the Army continues to transition, the key is to ensure the training meets a set standard and is relevant, exciting and demanding," said Rodriguez.