By W. Wayne MarlowDecember 14, 2018
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- First US Army leaders gathered here Dec. 11-12 to help shape the unit's vision for the future during the First Army Fall Commanders Forum.
The forum built teams and discussed the way ahead for First Army's mission by soliciting feedback from division and brigade command teams, staff personnel and Senior Army Advisors, Army National Guard (SRAAGs), in order to enhance First Army's role in building the readiness of the Total Force: Active and Reserve Components.
"This type of forum has been great, especially with Lt. Gen. James and crew," said Col. Martin Schmidt, commander, 5th Armored Brigade, First Army Division West, Fort Bliss, Texas. "He wants the input of the team…versus saying, 'This is my vision.' This is the vision of First Army.' We are an organization of leaders, of senior NCOs and officers, and you're brought to the table. It's not, 'Here's the order, go execute.' It's, 'Here's a pen and paper, help write the order.' That's the mindset that comes from a forum like this."
In his opening remarks, First Army commanding general, Lt. Gen. Thomas S. James Jr., encouraged participants to think creatively and to be innovative in order to define First Army challenges and to develop potential solutions. He also outlined the forum's objectives.
"I want us to think creatively," James said. "I want us to innovate, and I solicit your ideas. I want to make sure we have accurately defined our challenges. I call them challenges, I do not call them problems."
James then segued into the next objective, developing potential solutions to those challenges. First Army's senior enlisted Soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. Richard K. Johnson, addressed that theme, urging attendees to, "Stay focused on the desired outcome. We're not here to plant anything in concrete right now. It's still fluid. We want to try and get it as right as we can, and it's going to take everybody's input and everybody being involved in order to do that."
James stressed the importance of dialogue in achieving these goals: "I want to create shared understanding. I am a mission command purist. I believe in building a framework of commander's intent and let you go execute."
He then added, "I want to continue to build the team. Build those internal networks."
James also talked about the relationship between First Army headquarters and its divisions, brigades and battalions.
"Higher headquarters exist to look deep, to prioritize, to resource, and empower subordinates…If I say that you five priorities, one to five, and in your operational environment, you determine that five is more important than one because of an assessment, then you go for it. That's mission command."
After opening remarks, attendees broke into nine working groups of 13 personnel each that drilled into specific areas, such as vision, spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional fitness.
Near the end of the forum, those working groups provided back briefs. First Army staff members will now refine those products, and the final result will be presented at the First Army's Spring Commanders Forum in late February.