WASHINGTON -- Being ready to go to the fight is at the top -- the very top -- of the list of things a Soldier needs to be in order to be successful in the Army.
"The No. 1 responsibility as an individual is to maintain deployability," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, during a Feb. 8 forum at the Association of the U.S. Army.
With the Army now looking at new ways, in particular through policy, to reduce the number of Soldiers in the ranks who are unable to deploy, Dailey said the fix at the individual Soldier level is quite easy.
"It's not as big a problem as people make it out to be," Dailey said. "This is as simple as going to the dentist."
Not having been to the dentist, for instance, might mean a Soldier is marked as not being completely ready to deploy, and that means the Soldier will be among the many who are marked non-deployable for combat. That's a mark against Army readiness.
"We have to be creative and incentivize deployability in the Army," Dailey said. "That's an indication of our readiness, but it's a negative indication. Making sure they are doing their post-deployment health assessment, their annual checkups with their doctor, getting all their shots. The simple things. That accounts for the largest non-deployable rate."
Dailey also said there is an inherent risk in what Soldiers do. The Army must be ready to help Soldiers recover who get hurt doing their jobs, either in combat or back home during training.
"We need to put sports medicine doctors down in the unit level, just like we do in our special mission units and our Ranger battalions. We know for a fact that doing that will reduce that down time for those Soldiers and increase our readiness rates in each one of those organizations. And we are doing just that. So we have to invest in those Soldiers."
A change in Army culture is also needed, Dailey said.
"That culture has to exist all the way down to individual Soldiers," he said. "This is an institution that requires you to be ready to fight and win. Stand up to the oath you gave: defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. I tell our Soldiers all the time, we don't play home games. Our job is to play away games only. And you have to be ready to fight, and you have to be deployable to do that."
The Army is looking into policies that will attempt to reduce the number of non-deployable Soldiers in the ranks. Included among those polices are those that affect Soldiers who remain non-deployable for a continuous 12-month period, as well as Soldiers who are non-deployable for 12 non-consecutive months during an 18-month period.
Such policies will require that commanders initiate separation action for those Soldiers. Dailey said that the Army will still take care of those Soldiers, however.
"That doesn't mean we're not going to take care of people," he said. "It means we have to be focused on readiness ... We have a commitment to the sons and daughters that are given to us. We have a responsibility to take care of them for the rest of their lives, if we hurt them, if they are hurt ... doing the duty we ask them to do."
Still, Dailey said, with the Army chief of staff's number one priority being readiness, and with Soldier deployability being a necessary component of readiness, the Army must get after the number of non-deployable Soldiers.
"To wear the uniform, we have to make sure they are ready to fight and win," Dailey said. "Because deterrence is our main goal. And we do that through strength."