CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. -- Leaders of the Army Reserve and Army National Guard units that keep food in Soldiers' bellies and ammunition in their weapons spent the weekend together at the first Total Force Sustainment Readiness Commanders Conference hosted here by First Army.
These "sustainer" units supply the beans and bullets -- and trucks and cooks and doctors and accountants and packages from home and even tuba players -- the Army needs to carry out prolonged operations in any given location. First Army is the unit that partners with them to build and maintain their readiness.
During the conference, commanders of sustainment brigades, sustainment commands and expeditionary sustainment commands in the Army Reserve, Army National Guard and active Army discussed maximizing training opportunities and building training partnerships. Joining the discussion were senior leaders from First Army, National Guard Bureau, Army Reserve, U.S. Forces Command and Combined Arms Support Command.
"This has really been invaluable to have the training community and logistics community coming together, working on improving training venues," said Maj. Gen. Megan Tatu, commanding general of the Army Reserve's 79th Sustainment Support Command. "We're all after one thing, and that's to improve readiness."
Nearly 80 percent of the Army's sustainment units are in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard. Although these units normally train together only 39 days per year, they must meet the same performance and readiness standards as active Army sustainers. Sustainment unit commanders strive to make the most of each and every training day, and commanders of First Army multifunctional training brigades enable them to do that.
First Army's commanding general promised there would be "no unit left behind" with First Army helping to identify units for training exercises, helping commanders put together five-year training plans and helping align resources for collective training events.
"They're not going to do your people's jobs; they're going to enable them to do their jobs," said Lt. Gen. Michael Tucker, who called the partnerships between reserve-component units and First Army brigade commanders a "gamechanger."
At the weekend conference, Brig. Gen. Sylvester Cannon, commanding general of the Alabama Army National Guard's 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, met his First Army training partner, Col. Brandon Robbins, commander of the 177th Armored Brigade (Multifunctional Training Brigade).
They wasted no time making plans to work together, according to Cannon.
"We're trying to set up a time for him to visit my unit so we can work on training plans," Cannon said. "We're going to a warfighter exercise next year, and we'll set up a schedule to prepare for that."
Cannon is on the lookout for training exercises and other training opportunities for his ESC and subordinate units, and he said he'd never before seen an inclusive list of exercises such as the enormous one Tucker literally unrolled in front of the conference participants.
"It helped me get a big picture of what training events are out there," Cannon said. "Collective training opportunities are very important for sustainment units. We need those opportunities to keep our units trained up."
Conference participants not only discussed training opportunities, they discussed which units should get them. The Army uses a Sustainable Readiness Model to identify the four readiness phases every unit cycles through, and a unit trains according to its readiness "year." Units preparing for deployments have greatest priority.
"(We're) informing the community about training resources, identifying the right exercises for units at the right stage of readiness, and ensuring the right units are at the right venue," Tatu said. "Everything we do is about building readiness."
It's all about putting "the right unit in the right exercise in the right year", Tucker said. "Every unit should have the chance to participate in a world-class training event.
"Soldiers leave a training event, hopefully, with three things: confidence in their leaders, confidence in their equipment and confidence in their training."
The Total Force Sustainment Readiness Commanders Conference was the second in a series of readiness conferences First Army is hosting. First Army held a conference in March 2015 in Austin, Texas, for Army National Guard divisions and brigade combat teams and is planning two more conferences in early 2016 for Army National Guard and Army Reserve units including aviation, engineer, signal, medical, chemical and military police.