AUSTIN, Texas - After months of planning, the first step in the process was underway. Once the "change patch" order was given, the Associated Units Pilot Program accomplished its first task.
Soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard's 1st Battalion (Airborne), 143rd Infantry Regiment in Austin, Texas, participated in a patch-over ceremony with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, an active duty unit stationed in Vincenza, Italy, on August 14, 2016.
"We are honored that the Army selected our unit to help generate reserve force combat power in support of Army total force policy," said Texas Army National Guard Lt. Col. Kurt J. Cyr, commander, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne).
In March, the U.S. Army announced the implementation of the Associated Units Pilot Program, which is meant to create formal relationships between specified units across the active Army, Army Reserve and the Army National Guard. This will also allow them the opportunity to train together before deploying.
"This is going to be a great demonstration of how the total Army fights," said Col. Gregory Anderson, commander, 173rd Airborne Brigade.
The Chief of Staff of the Army directed a change to the reserve component force to increase unit readiness, reduce response time and change pre-mobilization training strategy.
The battalion will participate in the Associated Units Pilot Program from 2016 through 2019 in association with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. This means the 143rd will become part of the 173rd's formation and will wear their unit patch.
"Most ceremonies mark either recognition of achievement or a transition," Anderson said. "This particular ceremony, for them to don the 173rd patch is symbolic of their relationship to us and our responsibility to them."
After the ceremony, they will visibly be part of the same team, Anderson said. They will then begin working to train and build readiness together, both stateside and overseas.
"The pilot program will ensure that our communication and coordination of training and resourcing requirements to achieve combat readiness is maintained, and will assist in the building of trust and cohesion between our two units, establishing a One Army ethos in our leaders, regardless of what component they come from," Cyr said.
For reserve components, this relationship means adding additional training days to their yearly schedule which many see as beneficial for the home states of the reserve components. For Texas, this means an increase in readiness throughout the state.
"This pilot allows us to have a formal relationship with regard to certain training and readiness authorities and responsibilities, but still remain under the command of our parent unit in Texas," Cyr said.
Along with increased readiness, there are also many other benefits that come from training alongside the active component including the testing of new strategies, frequent rotations to combat training centers and an overall elevated level of experience and cohesiveness. This will allow components to deploy together and fight seamlessly in combat under an established command relationship.
"We will always carry the historic lineage and honors of the 143rd Infantry Regiment," Cyr said, "but we are looking forward to the patch-over ceremony in August, and toward beginning a new chapter of history for both the 143rd and the 173rd, together."