ATLANTA, Ga. (Army News Service, Feb. 5, 2009) -- "Make no mistake, First Army will do everything we can to take care of our staff right here in this room as we move, but we will move," said Lt. Gen. Thomas G. Miller, confirming that First Army headquarters will relocate to Rock Island Arsenal, Ill.
Miller, commanding general of First U.S. Army, now headquartered at Fort Gillem, Ga., confirmed to his headquarters staff that the move would take place in 2011 as directed by the Base Realignment and Closure legislation.
With First Army knee-deep in transformation, and with tens of thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Coalition Forces completing First Army post-mobilization training each year for the foreseeable future, some wondered how the headquarters would be able to meet its mission and complete its move to Rock Island Arsenal.
"Seamlessly," said Brig. Gen. Richard R. McPhee, deputy commanding general, First Army.
"Moving the headquarters will not affect First Army's primary mission of post-mobilization training," McPhee said. "First Army will continue to train, mobilize and deploy troops throughout the BRAC process, while simultaneously taking care of our Headquarters workforce to the absolute best of our ability.
"And the reason we'll be able to do that is because we have two very competent and qualified divisions at Fort Meade and Fort Carson."
First Army Division East (Fort Meade) and Division West (Fort Carson) command 16 training brigades; 10 brigades east of the Mississippi for Division East, and six brigades west of the Mississippi for Division West.
The divisions ensure the brigades have all the necessary personnel and equipment to conduct tough, realistic, theater-specific post-mobilization training at each of 10 mobilization training centers throughout the United States.
In fiscal year 2008, First Army mobilized more than 85,000 troops for service in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
"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, and we've sent 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.).
"But, the bottom line for First Army headquarters is that our training brigades will continue to train our nation's Citizen-Soldiers to fight and win on the battlefield and return home safely to their families," McPhee said.
"Our divisions will continue to ensure that the training brigades have everything they need to train those Soldiers to standard. And our great Soldiers and DA civilians at the headquarters will continue to do the hard work of ensuring the divisions have the necessary resources - dollars and people - to do their job regardless of whether we're in Atlanta or Rock Island."
McPhee, in realizing the wealth of institutional knowledge possessed by the headquarters' civilian workforce, said he wants all civilian employees to stay with First Army and make the move to Rock Island.
"We highly encourage all of 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 at Rock Island Arsenal. They'll be entitled to all the benefits covered in the Defense National Relocation Program administered by the Corps of Engineers, which includes helping the employee sell their existing home and even buying their home after a certain period of time if it fails to sell.
"With the current economy, being guaranteed your job and that you'll be able to sell your house is hard to beat. But, it's a personal decision the individual has to make, and we'll do everything to help that person whether they relocate to Rock Island Arsenal, transfer to a different government agency or simply retire from Civil Service."
On June 15, 2011, First Army plans to be fully operational at Rock Island Arsenal.
With early planning, teamwork and a shared sense of responsibility for Citizen-Soldiers, First Army leaders said they hope to seamlessly relocate the headquarters 800 miles north to Rock Island Arsenal.
(Phil Manson writes for First U.S. Army.)