By W. Wayne MarlowOctober 18, 2018
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- First Army leaders welcomed their new brigade and battalion command team members to the unit during an orientation here Oct. 15-18. Also attending were Senior Advisors to the Army National Guard (SRAAGs), whose mission is to advise and assist their state's Army National Guard commander.
During the week, attendees gained a better understanding of First Army's crucial role in the implementation of Army Total Force Policy, which aims to ensure that Active Duty, Reserve, and Army National Guard Soldiers are trained and held to the same standard. In simple terms, the policy emphasizes that everyone is on the same team.
Lt. Gen. Thomas James Jr., who himself is a new command team member, having become First Army commanding general this month, told attendees, "It's great to be on this team. I am honored to serve with all of you and I look forward to getting out and seeing the environment you operate in."
Maj. Gen. Chris Gentry, First Army deputy commanding general for support, stressed the importance of cooperation for commanders and SRAAGs when carrying out their duties. "At the end of your tenure, whether you're a SRAAG or a commander, if you don't know what the concept of teamwork is, then you probably never will," he said. "You're going to do teamwork every day. You're going to do teamwork within your unit, you're going to do it with the Army Reserve, you're going to do it with the Army National Guard."
Gentry added that First Army's mission and structure brings both challenges and rewards.
"As you become more integrated into your teams, you'll see that First Army is unique among Army formations," he said. "First Army is the embodiment of the Total Force Policy and that is the integration of all three components to form one cohesive team. That is by intent and by design."
While that integration in an ongoing process, laying the groundwork in events such as the orientation increases the chance of it succeeding.
"We're not going to solve anything here but we're going to understand the problem better when we leave," said Col. Shawn Klawunder, First Army chief of staff. "That's the whole objective."
Gentry helped attendees understand their roles by emphasizing the importance of readiness. "Your whole focus is about training the Reserve Component and improving their readiness and getting them ready to go to war," he said. "You're going to be challenged with your patience, with your resilience, your endurance. But that doesn't mean it's not rewarding. It doesn't mean that there's not a light at the end of the tunnel. Your job is going to be influence. You're going to have to find a way to influence them to readiness."
Attendees left with a better understanding of their mission, according to Lt. Col. Stacie Hatten, Kentucky SRAAG.
"We did a lot of networking and I've learned more about my roles and responsibilities as a SRAAG to Kentucky," she said. "I've learned more about how we mobilize our Reserve Component."