By Sgt. David LietzMarch 15, 2019
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. -- Army Reserve battalion command teams from across the country, assigned to the 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command, traveled to Chicago for a commander's forum to discuss the way ahead, as operationally controlled observer coach/trainers to their multi-component partners at First Army, March 8-10, 2019.
"The main purpose of the briefing was to meet the commanding general's vision statement of Enhancing Lethality with Superior Service, Proactive Support and World Class Trainers," explained Lt. Col. Mike Magill, Chief of Operations, 85th USARSC.
"We had 38 battalions here. There were some (battalions) that were exempted due to mobilization."
Highlights of the weekend briefing included command teams participating in an overview of the new Army Combat Fitness Test; discussions, and break out sessions by senior leaders from the 85th USARSC and First Army headquarters; an interactive equal opportunity leadership briefing and it concluded with a visit by legendary World War II Veteran, Al Mampre, 96, from the famed Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, who participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
"Anytime First Army has an opportunity to engage with the 85th Support Command it's a good thing because it reinforces the relationship we have with the 85th," explained Maj. Gen. Chris Gentry, Deputy Commanding General (Support), First Army. "Brig. Gen. (Kris) Belanger, (Commanding General, 85th USARSC), is always very gracious coming to see us in Rock Island so we like to return the favor."
Gentry elaborated on the strong relationship that the 85th Support Command shares with First Army in OC/T support and wanted to ensure the relationship continues.
"It really comes down to timely planning and resources to get the job done," he said.
During his remarks, Gentry recognized the achievements that Army Reserve Soldiers are performing and the sacrifices made by them and their families.
Caring about Soldiers was a theme carried by Belanger during the 3-day briefing there.
"If we don't take care of our Soldiers at every stage of their career we are not building a bench for the future," said Belanger.
She added that the purpose of the briefing was to create a shared understanding of the command relationship, to explain where we are as an organization, and where we are heading. Additionally, it provided command teams with an opportunity to connect with senior leadership within First Army and the 85th Support Command.
Lt. Gen. Thomas James Jr, Commanding General, First Army, spoke to command teams about the issue of readiness.
"The big challenge is to form relationships early enough that enable us to generate effective readiness, said James. "We are the only total force organization that focuses on generating total force readiness twenty-four seven, three sixty-five. The 85th (USARSC) is a huge part of what we do. They help us with the load by providing observer coach/trainers."
For Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Sumrall, 2-360th Training Support "Phantom Battalion", 85th USARSC, the opportunity to meet and engage with leadership was a beneficial opportunity.
"What benefits me personally is to be able to come here and see my leaders and talk about issues within the organization. It was awesome that Lieutenant General James came here to speak with us. It was the first time I met him. By meeting him, it rounds out the whole picture of your commander and everything kind of falls into place," he said.
Key take-a-ways for Lt. Col. Jennifer Bantner, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1, 85th Support Command, included "one-on-one" time with commanders, and being able to answer questions and get to the 'ground truth' of issues commanders are concerned about.
"It was a great opportunity to dispel rumors and to successfully push out messaging about the 85th Support Command and the way forward," she said.
In addition to the briefings, command teams had an opportunity to see a demonstration of the ACFT conducted by master fitness trainers from First Army and participated in events to gain first-hand knowledge on the soon-to-be new standard for testing Soldier fitness.
"It was interesting to have an overview of the ACFT and some things I didn't know that will help set the battalion up for success," explained Lt. Col. Mike Lafontaine, Commander, 1-340 Training Support "Wolverines Battalion", Fort Snelling, Minnesota.
The briefing closed with a presentation from a unique guest speaker, Mampre, coordinated by Belanger for the leaders and staff members, a visit that underscored the importance of training.
"Many of us will never experience or understand what Mr. Mampre went through," said Belanger. "If we can only get a tidbit of knowledge from someone who experienced the importance of training in a large-scale operation, it's him,"