U.S. Army North (ARNORTH) completed its first force protection (FP) higher headquarters assessment from U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) since assuming the mission in February 2008.
This assessment highlighted the growth of the ARNORTH FP mission over the past eight months and provided clear direction for the ARNORTH staff to move the FP mission forward.
The past eight months has been a journey that has provided many lessons learned that will enable more effective mission execution in the future.
One of those lessons is that the entire ARNORTH staff has a role in the FP mission and must be effectively integrated. As we prepared for many events over the past eight months, the necessity to integrate the capabilities and skill sets of all ARNORTH staff sections with Provost Marshall's Office (PMO) FP actions became apparent.
Some of those key events included preparation for the Border Commander's Conference, the ARNORTH off-site, the Republican National Convention, NORTHCOM exercises and many others.
Partnering with the staff through FP forums such as the Force Protection Working Groups and Threat Working Groups, has enabled the PMO to work FP issues for the theater and provide FP recommendations to the commander.
On a daily basis, each staff section contributes to the command's FP mission. The recent assessment showed the high level of staff integration and participation and the take away is to continue to strengthen and build the FP expertise within the staff.
As an Army Service Component Command (ASCC), we've learned that to be value added to the Army elements in this theater, we must establish effective FP guidance, proactive assessments and timely response to their issues. The PMO published the FP operation order (OPORD) and is currently staffing the strategic plan.
This guidance provides the framework for the Army elements under ARNORTH FP responsibility, to understand how the FP mission will be executed in this theater. However, a plan is only as good as the execution, which means ARNORTH and each subordinate element must have a proactive program to assess the mission shortfalls and challenges.
In preparation for the NORTHCOM assessment, we requested the reporting commands conduct a self assessment - the results indicate there are resourcing and procedural issues that ARNORTH can assist with. More importantly, on a daily basis, we must be the information broker for the Army elements in the area-of-responsibility (AOR) - timely threat dissemination, critical FP information flow and being responsive to their requests.
The FP mission can only be effective if it is effective at every level within the Army.
We've learned in addition to FP as a separate mission task for the command, that there is a significant role for the FP community in support of the command's homeland defense (HLD) and defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) missions.
During the recent hurricane operations, FP actions were critical to ensuring the safety and security of Army personnel, information and critical infrastructure, which in turn assures the ability of the force to execute the mission.
During the PM's recent visit to Mexico, it is clear that exchanging FP information and assisting our partners with development of their FP missions, will provide a valuable venue for furtherance of the command's TSC mission.
Additionally, the relationships developed with the U.S. Embassy staff will assist in providing better situational awareness and security of Army personnel traveling in Mexico.
As a joint force land component command (JFLCC), we must look at FP responsibilities through a different set of set of lenses: specifically, how we can help Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS) better protect themselves while executing their missions and how we integrate with Joint Task Force-North (JTF-N) to identify and protect Army elements along the border.
The PMO wants to thank the ARNORTH staff and Army commands for their support in execution of the FP mission. Together we will build the most effective FP mission in the Army.