WASHINGTON - Want to avoid angering the new chief of staff of the Army? Make sure you include the National Guard and Reserve when discussing end strength.
"Much of America's Army's capacity is resident in the National Guard," Army Gen. Mark Milley said in remarks in Nashville, Tennessee, on Sept. 11. "I expect demand to increase in the future, and we must rely more heavily on our National Guard to meet that demand. ... I've only been on the job a couple of weeks, but it's readily obvious to me that I need to employ more of the Guard, not less."
The Army comprises three components: The regular, or active duty, Army; the National Guard; and the Army Reserve. But, General Milley said, "There is only one Army. ... We are not 10 divisions, we are 18 divisions. We're not 32 brigades; we're 60 brigades. And we're not 490,000 Soldiers; we are 980,000 Soldiers.
"Every time I hear the word ... '490,' I jump through the ceiling. If I hear the words '10 divisions,' I lose my mind. It is one Army, and we're not small - we're big. We're very capable. And we're very capable because of the reserves, we're capable because of the National Guard."
Less than a month into his new assignment, just back from a multi-nation Middle East visit and a morning 9/11 memorial ceremony at the Pentagon, and about to leave for Indonesia, Gen. Milley visited the 137th National Guard Association of the United States General Conference to deliver 34 minutes of remarks praising the National Guard's service since before the nation was founded; highlighting the Guard's response to the 9/11 attacks and its service since; lauding the National Guard State Partnership Program; citing the valor of some Guard members by name; emphasizing readiness; encouraging all Army leaders to question the status quo - and making it clear he sees the Total Force as one Army in which the National Guard plays a critical role.
"I think the world of the National Guard," Gen. Milley said, listing times he has served with and commanded National Guard members in multiple countries during his 35-year career. Referring to the organization of the first militia regiments in North America in 1636, to which the Guard traces its roots, the Boston native said, "It does my heart good ... to know that the United States' National Guard was regimented as infantry and artillery with the purpose of defending the great colony of Massachusetts."
The American Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775 at Lexington and Concord. "Those shots were fired not by the regular Army," the general said. "Those shots were fired by America's militia - those shots were fired by America's National Guard."
To this day, "We cannot conduct sustained land warfare without the Guard and the Reserve," the 39th Chief of Staff said. "It is impossible for the United States of America to go to war today without bringing Main Street - without bringing Tennessee and Massachusetts and Colorado and California. We just can't do it."
The dependence on the National Guard is deliberate, Gen. Milley said, citing the design of General Creighton Abrams, the 26th Chief of Staff, whom General Milley called one of the Army's best chiefs of staff.
Gen. Abrams and others restructured the Army following the Vietnam War, which Gen. Milley characterized as a defeat in which relatively few from the National Guard served, an exception to the Guard's service in all other conflicts in American history.
"We lost the will," Gen. Milley said. "We lost the connective tissue with the American people." General Abrams concluded, Gen. Milley said, that, "Ultimately, war is about politics, and it's about the will of the people." And General Abrams, who died while still serving in 1974, made a vow, "Never again will I send or be part of sending America's Army into conflict without Main Street USA."
The Total Force was the result of Abrams' vow.
"That's when we began the concept of a Total Army," Gen. Milley said. "One Army. One Army made up of three components."
Today, that force is unmatched, he said - and it must stay that way.
"We must remain number one in the face of challenges," Gen. Milley said. "That is why my number one priority ... is readiness. And it's readiness across the total force. It's readiness for the entire Army."
Maintaining readiness means exceptionally tough, realistic training based on warfighting fundamentals, he said. It means enhanced leader development at all levels to create tough, resilient, adaptive, agile, flexible, smart leaders of competence and character. And it means staying ahead of an enemy that knows how we fight and is embracing hybrid warfare that does not attack the USA head-on and threatens neighbors and allies.
Gen. Milley challenged leaders to look beyond green, amber and red blocks on PowerPoint slides assessing readiness. Instead, look in the mirror and ask, "How ready are we - really?"
The Army's success is, in part, measured by its ability to adapt, he said. Historical victories, such as at Normandy, are no guide to the future. "We must be ready today, and we must be prepared for tomorrow."
Addressing an audience of several thousand senior National Guard officers and noncommissioned officers, Gen. Milley said, "No American Soldier on our watch - or your watch, or my watch - must ever be committed to combat undermanned, untrained, poorly led or poorly equipped. That is the most grievous sin we can commit."
Editor's Note: This is the main of four related reports about Gen. Milley's remarks.