FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Key leaders of the Total Army Force focused, May 25-26, on the details and design concepts behind the U.S. Army's Associated Units program in a pilot-implementation forum.

The forum focused on the initial steps for training, manning, equipping, leading and maintaining the vital readiness for key active Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve units in nine states and even Italy.

"This is a first, to have all the command teams associated with this pilot implementation all in one room at one time," said Gen. Robert B. Abrams, U.S. Army Forces Command commanding general. "The requirements that the Army has … are going to require all 980,000 Soldiers to be ready to go: about 450,000 in the active component, 335,000 in the National Guard and 195,000 in the Army Reserve to meet all the requirements, plus all the steady-state operations in the world, and to be able to sustain it over the lifespan of a campaign.

"This is really important for the Army," Abrams said, "that we get this right. That's why we've made this investment, brought all these leaders across the force to Fort Bragg. There's a lot going on, but there's nothing more important for us as a Total Force than readiness because this is going to set the tone for the Army for the next 10 to 15 years."

The day and one-half pilot implementation forum focused on the formal relationships for readiness, equipping and training within the three Army components, as well as scheduling and leveraging Army Combat Training Center rotations at the National Training Center and Fort Irwin, Calif.; the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., regional and overseas military-training facilities, and the vital Army Total Force Policy training role of First U.S. Army.

The forum also addressed more detailed issues -- such as possible common uniform patches for the Army associated units, important budget considerations, and personnel exchanges among them and leader-development priorities.

About 180 Army leaders attended the first-of-its-kind event -- including 72 representatives of the Army National Guard, Air Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, as well as representatives from U.S. Army Pacific and U.S. Army Europe.

The Associated Units Pilot Program will "test a Total Army concept for generating reserve force combat power," then Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy said in March. "The Army will conduct a pilot program that creates integrated and cohesive formations from units of more than one component. To provide commanders the ability to fully integrate for training and ensure the readiness of their formations, the Army will "associate" the selected units for the pilot program."

The Associated Units pilot facilitates readiness and strategic depth across components," Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley, Chief of Army Reserve said March 22, when the Army first announced this Total Army Force initiative. "These units will train, build readiness, and ultimately fight as One Army."

"The Army Reserve is all in, said Maj. Gen. David Conboy, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve. "We are absolutely all in with the focus on building readiness and fostering partnerships among all three components."

"The Army National Guard is all in," said Lt. General Timothy J. Kadavy, Director, Army National Guard. "I think this is important for the country and for the Army. I look at coming out of this meeting a shared understanding -- a mind meld -- that enables commanders to focus on the training and increased readiness."

"Much of America's Army's capacity is resident in the Reserve Components and we must rely more heavily on them to meet the demands of a complex global environment," Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, Gen. Mark Milley said in March when announcing the Army initiative. "The Associated Units pilot allows us to leverage the capabilities and capacities of the Active Component, Army Reserve and the Army National Guard as One Army."

The initial three-year pilot-implementation for Associated Units is summer 2016 through 2019 and includes 13 Army units from active, Army National Guard and Army Reserve forces. Army units involved in the pilot include forces in Hawaii, Indiana, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Georgia.

The planned association of Georgia-based units will be the first of the Associated Units. This summer, Task Force 1-28 Infantry, an Active Army infantry battalion stationed on Fort Benning, Georgia, is being associated with the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a Georgia Army National Guard unit. The 48th Infantry Brigade, meanwhile, is being associated with the Active Component's 3rd Infantry Division, stationed on Fort Stewart, Georgia.