By Phil Manson, First ArmyFebruary 5, 2009
"Fort Gillem is going to close, and First Army is going to move and those facts will not change!"
With those words, First Army's commanding general, Lt. Gen. Thomas G. Miller, confirmed to the headquarters staff First Army will move to Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., in 2011 as directed by the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC).
To better prepare Soldiers and Civilians for the move, First Army held a seminar to introduce the staff to the Defense National Relocation Program.
Brig. Gen. Richard R. McPhee, deputy commanding general for First Army, said he realizes the wealth of institutional knowledge the headquarter's Civilian workforce holds.
"We (the command) highly encourage our Civilians to stay with the headquarters and join us at Rock Island Arsenal," McPhee said. "Every one of our employees will be given the opportunity to join us. They'll be entitled to all the benefits covered in the Defense National Relocation Program, which include helping the employee sell his or her home and even buying the home if it fails to sell after a certain period of time.
"With the current state of the economy, being guaranteed your job and that you'll be able to sell your house is hard to beat," the deputy said. "The bottom line there is it's a personal decision the individual has to make, and we'll do everything to help that person, regardless of whether they relocate to Rock Island Arsenal, transfer to a different governmental agency or simply retire from Civil Service."
The relocation of the headquarters will not affect First Army's primary mission of post-mobilization training, McPhee said. "We will continue to mobilize, train and deploy troops throughout the BRAC process, while simultaneously taking care of our Headquarters workforce to the absolute best of our ability.
"The reason we'll be able to do that is because we have two very competent and qualified divisions at Fort Meade (Md.) and Fort Carson (Colo.)."
First Army Division East located at Fort Meade, and First Army Division West at Fort Carson, command 16 training brigades and ensure those brigades have the necessary personnel and equipment to conduct tough, realistic, theater-specific post-mobilization training at one of 10 Mobilization Training Centers throughout the United States. First Army Division East is responsible for the 10 of the brigades east of the Mississippi, and the six brigades west of the Mississippi fall under Division West's command. In fiscal year 2008, First Army mobilized more than 85,000 troops for service in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Guantanamo.
"It's not like BRAC has snuck up on us," McPhee said. "We've been preparing for the move since Fort Gillem was put on the list in 2005. We already have a building identified at Rock Island, where renovations will begin later this year. We've sent many advance teams there to start building relationships with the garrison staff, the other commands located there, and to meet officials from the Quad Cities (Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa; and Rock Island and Moline, Ill., comprise the Quad Cities area)."
"June 15, 2011, First Army will be fully operational at Rock Island Arsenal; that is a fact, but with early planning, teamwork and a shared sense of responsibility for our Citizen-Soldiers, First Army, its divisions and brigades are able to meet their considerable training mission, transform itself into a more efficient, effective organization, and still seamlessly relocate its headquarters 800 miles north to Illinois," McPhee explained.