By Lt. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty, commanding general, First ArmySeptember 8, 2016
As global engagements continue to extend the utilization of our Active Army we must expand our efforts in maintaining accessible ready and capable Army National Guard and Army Reserve formations -- able to respond to a wide variety of mission sets and in many cases, on short notice. Whether responding to international terrorism, conflicts in Eastern Europe, continuing threats from North Korea, or Cyber Warfare, the Reserve Components have been and will continue to be relied upon to complement our Active Component as a critical part of the Total Army. First Army, as a key enabler of Reserve Component readiness and U.S. Army Forces Command's Coordinating Authority for implementation of the Army Total Force Policy, continues to champion integrating and synchronizing ARNG and USAR unit training with Active Army counterparts in order to maximize readiness and reduce post-mobilization training time.
BOLD SHIFT -- TRANSFORMING TO MEET NEW CHALLENGES
In 2016, First Army concluded a successful transformation of its mission, structure, and operational concept to meet the training support requirements of today's Army National Guard and Army Reserve formations. During the period 2001 to 2012 First Army's priority of effort had been planning, resourcing, and conducting post-mobilization training for up to 90,000 Soldiers per year in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and other contingency operations. Although our requirements for deployment of Reserve Component formations are not where they were 10 years ago, there remains a steady operational requirement for mobilizing RC units which keeps our two active Mobilization Force Generation Installations (MFGI) operating 24/7 x 365 at Ft. Hood and Ft. Bliss, Texas. However, the transformation focus of the Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, as well as First Army, has shifted back to building unit readiness during pre-mobilization -- in many ways back to the future, but this time more efficiently with the intent of reducing the time required to mobilize RC units.
After analyzing the types and number of Reserve Component formations, First Army redesigned its entire structure with an eye on improving the ability to support modernized, combat tested reserve units and leaders in a decisive action training environment. Also included in the redesign was implementation of the Department of the Army directive to reduce First Army's 2 and 3 star Headquarters staffs by 50%. The end-state structure, effective 1 October 2016, consists of 9 modular Training Support Brigades and provides a 32% increase of Observer Coach / Trainers (OC/T)s through reduction of the headquarters staffs and reduction from 16 to 9 brigades. The 6 Combined Arms Training Brigades (CATBs) are organized to provide training support to Army National Guard Brigade Combat Teams, but also have the capability to support ARNG and USAR Functional/Multi-functional formations to meet pre-mobilization readiness requirements. CATBs generally consist of two maneuver battalions, one fires battalion, one brigade engineer battalion, and one brigade support battalion. Multi-Functional Training Brigades (MFTBs) are organized to support Functional/Multi-Functional BDEs -- nearly 80 percent of the Army's combat support and combat service support formations reside in the ARNG and USAR. First Army's MFTBs consist of two brigade engineer battalions and three brigade support battalions which are manned with the appropriate MOS to provide the required expertise. All of First Army's Brigade and Battalion commanders are Centralized Select List (CSL) positions.
PARTNERSHIP -- KEY TO SUCCESS
Rather than building readiness after mobilization or only during major exercises, First Army enhances RC readiness by establishing partnerships, building trust with units and their leaders throughout the Sustainable Readiness Model (SRM), and providing or coordinating necessary support to achieve unit commander training objectives. Each Reserve Component Brigade sized formation is linked with a First Army Training Support Brigade to provide an enduring-partnered relationship. A variety of tools and cooperative engagements such as Brigade Training Support Visits (BTSV), Training Support Synchronization Work Groups (TSSWG), and Multi-component Joint Assessments (MCJA) facilitate getting the right unit, to the right training event, during the right year. First Army partner brigades help supported ARNG and USAR commanders with Unit Training Management (UTM) leveraging tools such as Combined Arms Training Strategy (CATS) and the Army Training Network (ATN) to plan and execute well resourced, battle-focused assemblies and annual training periods.
First Army aligns its subordinate DIV HQs, CATBs and MFTBs with RC DIV HQs, BCTs, and F/MF BDEs based primarily on geographic location and like-unit capabilities. These habitual partnerships focus on mutual cooperation between partner units to increase RC readiness. In practice, DIV East/West, and their respective CATBs/MFTBs, advise and assist RC Partner units in developing Unit Training Plans (UTP) that cover the five-year SRM cycle. The BTSV captures this data and corresponding milestones. These UTPs provide predictability for both the RC Unit's active Army unit partner, as well as RC units and Soldiers; ensuring that major collective exercises are fully integrated and supported with OC/Ts and enablers. With First Army's Bold Shift structure, CATBs/MFTBs provide an "Operations Group-like" capability to support planning, preparation, and execution of collective training exercises.
The partner Training Support Brigades remain connected with the unit through their mobilization by assigning Unit Mobilization Assistors who work with units left of mobilization to increase readiness and in an effort to reduce redundancy, accompany the unit to the mobilization training center. We are already seeing the benefits of enhanced readiness levels and reduced post mob training time for a substantial number of units.
In accordance with FORSCOM's Total Force Partner Program (TFPP), First Army also facilitates establishing relationships between Reserve Component units and their Active Component counterparts and Centers of Excellence proponents. Over the past year, First Army hosted four Total Force conferences focused on promoting open dialog between leaders of Army National Guard and Army Reserve units and their active-component partners, and identifying training opportunities to enhance unit readiness. These conferences provided a forum for senior leaders and commanders to understand current readiness models and integration efforts, build and strengthen partnerships, realize and develop training opportunities, share lessons learned, focus on a mutual understanding of Army Total Force Policy requirements, and align multicomponent resources to increase unit readiness.
OBSERVER COACH / TRAINERS -- FIRST ARMY'S PACING ITEM
Like the Combat Training Centers, First Army relies on Observer Coach / Trainers to enable unit leaders and Soldiers to "see themselves". OC/Ts observe unit training and compare unit performance of mission essential tasks (MET) and associated battle tasks and drills against doctrinal standards published in Training and Evaluation Outlines (T&EO). OC/Ts must thoroughly understand the doctrine and know the approved Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for the tasks being performed. Equally important, they must be masters of facilitating After Action Reviews where unit members self-discover what went right, wrong and what improvements need to be made. External Evaluations are key to improving unit performance and are recognized as a requirement to reach the highest readiness ratings in the Army's new readiness rating system (OBJ T).
Currently, 2,968 of First Army's 3,299 Active Component Soldiers serve as OC/Ts. Upon assignment as an OC/T, First Army Soldiers undergo a rigorous training program at the Army's only full-time OC/T Academy at Camp Shelby, MS where all First Army OC/Ts have been trained since 2007. OC/Ts are certified by their Brigade Commanders after successfully completing the one week academy and additional local requirements. OC/T duty in First Army consists of OC/T duty at multiple Bde/Div WFXs, CTC rotations, CSTX/WAREX, and XCTCs across CONUS. Working with TRADOC, the National Training Center and Joint Readiness Training Center First Army has jointly developed a Program of Instruction that will standardize OC/T training and certification across the Army and will soon be recognized and tracked by an Additional Skill Identifier.
MOBILIZATION -- NOW AND FUTURE
While reestablishing our training support and partnership with RC units during pre-mobilization, First Army concurrently seeks to refine and improve mobilization planning and operations -- a no fail mission. In conjunction with the Reserve Components, Department of the Army, Forces Command, IMCOM, and MEDCOM (collectively defined as the mobilization enterprise) First Army is engaged in a comprehensive effort to sustain our current mobilization capability while planning for an expanded capacity should large scale mobilizations be required in the future. History has proven that our Army must be ready for expansion on short notice. Towards that end, First Army hosted a Mobilization Summit in February 2016 to discuss current and future mobilization topics and facilitate relationships among key stakeholders in the mobilization enterprise. As a result of these discussions, the Army is developing a long-range, scalable mobilization plan to ensure the enterprise remains postured to deliver reserve-component units to the fight -- ready and on time -- now and in the future.
First Army's continuing focus on enhancing the readiness of reserve-component units and reducing post mobilization training time is essential in enabling our Army to meet Combatant Commander requirements with Total Force sourcing solutions. Our mission is essential to the Army's ability to protect our nation and national interests, and we continue to be proactive, innovative and a responsible steward of our resources as we listen and respond to the readiness needs of our Army National Guard and Army Reserve partners.