ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- With the continuing goal of building partnerships, ensuring readiness, and implementing Army Total Force policy in mind, First Army brigade commanders and command sergeants major, along with Senior Advisors to the Army National Guard, met here Feb. 20-21 for the First Army Spring Commanders Forum.

The conference continued to build on ideas shared during the Fall Commanders Forum late last year. During that forum, attendees huddled in breakout sessions to drill down into ten specific areas of interest such as Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual issues in the interest of refining possible solutions.

With the enthusiasm and optimism that have been his trademarks as First Army Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Thomas James Jr. encouraged attendees to be creative and to understand the vital roles they play in Army Readiness.

"I'm on my fourth month of being Deed 6 and it is an awesome assignment," James said. "Our mission is different than anybody else in the Army and you ought to feel proud about that." James noted the partnerships and readiness that First Army fosters helped to sustain Total Army readiness.

"Wars cannot be won without all three components," James said. "We just don't have enough force in a volunteer Army to be able to fight a large near-peer competitor. We have to focus on being a Total Army. When you think about the Guard, Reserve, and active Army, that is First Army. That's who we are, that's what we represent."

He then segued into the impact time constraints can have in achieving training goals in the Reserve component, and adjusting First Army's training regimen to accommodate these challenges.

"I call it the three R's - realistic, rigorous, and relevant training," James said. "Because the number one resource that's almost impossible to manage is time. So when we have time together, when we have our Reserve Component partners in a window of training, we need to have relevant training, and it needs to be multi-echelon."

The result of such training, he added, will be units that are ready to "to deploy, sometimes on very short notice, to fight and win in the rigors of sustained multi-domain combat."

The forum was two days well spent, said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Immanuel Delacruz of Division West's 166th Aviation Battalion.

"It's been a real good experience having all the leadership here in one place," he said. "Lt. Gen James is about building the team, mission command, building that trust, and having that shared understanding."

Command Sgt. Maj. Carolyn Donaldson, senior enlisted Soldier for Division West's 120th Infantry Brigade, said the forum enabled her to better see the commander's vision and what he wants to do in order to make First Army training better.

"I have a better understanding of where Lt. Gen. James wants First Army to go as it pertains to training and taking care of Soldiers, civilians, and family members," Donaldson said.

Meeting face-to-face was advantageous, she added. "You generate ideas from the brigades and the other division. We have different types of ways to communicate, but face-to-face versus e-mail or video teleconference is a benefit because you can really get a grasp of what the leader wants you do to. You can tell what is important, what is not important. That was my biggest takeaway."

Though the Commanders Forum has ended, First Army Soldiers will continue analyzing and refining the mission. The ideas from the conference will be further refined during next month's Training Support and Synchronization Working Group, which will invite Reserve Component partners to plan upcoming exercises with partner units.