JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- (Aug. 31, 2016) As a command, we've made great strides in meeting the Army standard of readiness. In the almost 11 months since you've welcomed me to the Mission and Installation Contracting Command, I've had an opportunity to travel to many of our offices and emphasize to both our senior enlisted and civilian leaders the importance of the Army profession as it directly correlates to readiness.In his initial message to the Army last year, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley listed readiness as his No. 1 priority in order to remain the world's premier combat force. Maintaining that readiness for Soldiers in the MICC calls for remaining proficient in both the technical and operational aspects of the job.I have the fortune of leading Soldiers in one of the Army's most highly skilled, competent military occupational specialties. Soldiers in the 51 Charlie MOS possess a business acumen that parallels industry when it comes to education and certification. Training alongside our civilian professionals in the MICC, they have gained the practical savvy to execute the contracting mission anywhere they're needed in the world. Now, together with my fellow senior enlisted leaders throughout the command, we have to ensure that we are able to equally execute our mission at the operational level.The Army readiness standard is 85 percent. When I first came on board at the MICC, we were not meeting the Army standard for readiness because of struggles with medical actions not initiated for personnel on extensive long-term profiles. The cause and effect for delaying the proper transition of Soldiers into the MOS Administrative Retention Review process, medical evaluation board process or a determination of whether or not personnel were basically fit for duty posed a grim impact on the command's readiness posture and our ability to meet the Army standard for deployability vice availability, which in turn has been the central impetus of the chief of staff of the Army and sergeant major of the Army's focus as the Army continues to drawdown and transform the workforce.At that point, I began to fully engage leaders throughout the MICC because readiness goes both ways. While many of our medical readiness requirements are an individual responsibility, it also requires command oversight to ensure that those individuals and leaders at the lowest levels are getting things done. So, gradually, we began to move the needle and are now achieving the Army readiness standard as of this time period, but we must remain mindful that this is a continuous process that demands constant vigilance. No matter the current success, I continue to reinforce this with our command sergeants major and sergeants major throughout the MICC that this is their priority as well.This challenge will not go away, and there are many factors that play a role. While contracting remains a critical function, 51 Charlies are not immune to the drawdown occurring across the Army. Depending upon how your organization is structured and how often a unit's individual personnel manage their readiness, taking an eye off the ball for even one week can hurt organizational readiness by 5 or 10 percentage points. And it limits our deployable pool. Because our formations are made up of a smaller number of Soldiers than those traditionally seen across the Army, the consequence of even one Soldier unable to deploy when called upon is magnified.When the number of deployable Soldiers drops below the 400-plus assigned to the command, the personnel shortage only further exacerbates the readiness of the teams, battalions and brigades we have available. Our leadership intent is to deploy them as organic units without breaking another organization to meet personnel requirements. Moreover, when you start balancing our drawdown force structure and our operations tempo that has stayed on path or even increased, especially for our units supporting the Pacific region and U.S. Central Command operations, it is definitely challenging us to stay at a manning percentage to support any operations across the Army.From an operational perspective, we have left behind some key requirements that we should always maintain, which is our warrior task and battle drills. We've atrophied in a lot of tactical skill sets. We should not have to rely on our training centers to become qualified before we touch down in our theater of operations. We've made good progress from this aspect and are continuing to fine tune this process. But it hasn't been easy. We're turning the Titanic because it's a culture shift in this mindset where tactical skills have not always been the priority. For many of our organizations, Soldier time was not mandated. Establishing developmental training plans to include warrior tasks and battle drill and scheduling time on the range is equally important as maintaining contracting certification. By applying emphasis on both technical and tactical skill sets, proficiency at both levels are raised.
For this, I'm relying on our senior enlisted leaders throughout the command. The key role to leader development is leader engagement. We have to be involved in this process from top to bottom. If I'm not engaged at this level, how can I expect my brigade command sergeants major and battalion sergeants major to be engaged? It all trickles down, and leader development is key to the Army concept.We must take a thoughtful approach. A fundamental flaw in a back-to-basics approach is how each generation defines it. The basics when I chose to serve our nation are quite different from those of someone who might have joined a dozen years ago. We've gone from having to report for formation four times a day to receiving text messages of why someone is absent. We have to get back to ground zero and back to what the Army expects of us -- that hasn't changed. Our leaders have always expected NCOs to be the backbone of our force. We have to get back to that mentality and thought process. Getting there calls for leaders at all levels to drive change to a generation that is not used to it. Merging those dynamics is a challenge, but with the Army standard as our compass, it is one we all must continuously strive to achieve.