One of the great things about Army installations is the centralized support they provide to tenant units, thereby allowing them to build readiness through consolidated resources.
As brigade commanders on active duty installations we were both impressed with the mission support element, and the directorates on base, which enabled our commands to conduct individual readiness tasks efficiently. Installation support staff were able to complete health assessments, weapons qualification and increase Soldier readiness.
Installation support staff are experts at executing administration actions across time, task, and cost because these were routine tasks for them. In comparison, these were not everyday tasks for my brigade staff, who accomplished the same requirements at a higher cost in terms of time, resources and money.
The Army's new facility readiness drivers link our facilities to warfighting readiness and lethality. One big difference between the Army Reserve and the active component is a lack of centralized installation support. The Army Reserve benefits from community-based stationing, which allows our military to embed with the people they serve, but it lacks most of the support that centralized basing provides.
ADDRESSING THE DICHOTOMY: THE CREATION OF READINESS DIVISIONS
One effort to address this dichotomy between the U.S. Army and Army Reserve is the latter's creation of Readiness Divisions (RD) to provide centralized support in specific activities.
However, the regional division concept is underutilized in supporting readiness activities that could be centralized to create efficiency for the Army Reserve to accomplish readiness tasks. Centralizing more functions to the Readiness Divisions leverages a core competency developed over the last decade by the RDs as regional program managers; akin to the support role of active component installations.
One successful example is the centralized planning and execution of the Yellow Ribbon Readiness Program events for all deploying and returning reserve component units. In the past, Functional Commands (FC) managed YRRP events and struggled to manage the process for their infrequently deploying units. By centralizing this function at the RDs by region, the Army Reserve was able to gain cost efficiencies, effectively manage attendance, and efficiently execute events planned by subject matter experts in the same area as the target audience.
The same concept used for the Yellow Ribbon Program of taking relatively infrequent tasks, centralizing them to gain better execution, participation and savings, could be applied to additional reserve component readiness tasks, thus further leveraging the RDs.
One recommendation is coordinating Mass Medical Events and Soldier Readiness Process Level 2 events at the regional level, led by the RD. Currently, many health readiness events are planned and executed by individual units. By regionally centralizing health readiness events, groups could focus on getting Soldiers to activities that increase their readiness, instead of planning, resourcing and executing those events at their level with their non-Subject Matter Expertise (SME) staff members.
The Readiness Divisions are experts on this and are already conducting this task to some degree in their respective regions. Assigning these functions to the RD would free up units' time to focus on training tasks. Implementing a tool like 'e-invite' through email to available units or participants is just one method available to notify and register Soldiers for events.
FUTURE TASKS THAT CAN BE CENTRALIZED
Another centralized task could be coordination of ranges for individual and crew-served weapons qualification tasks. Currently, weapons qualification is entirely decentralized; planned, coordinated, resourced and executed at the unit level.
While running a weapons range can be a significant training opportunity for Soldiers within units, the planning and coordination of installation resources, such as ranges and ammunition, is completed by a handful of unit support staff, who have many unit responsibilities and transfer over time.
What if the RDs planned and resourced monthly weapons qualification at regionally selected sites, coordinated ranges and ammunition draws, and collaborated with units on leading and executing the ranges?
Centralizing coordination for installation resources, such as ranges and ammunition, would further allow units to focus on getting Soldiers to the events rather than organizing an event they seldom specialize in doing. It would also enable ongoing relationships with installations where training occurs. Most regions have a limited number of locations where weapons qualification can occur, especially crew serve weapons and gunnery crew qualification.
The Regional Divisions could deconflict schedules, resources, and be the single point of contact for units to the installation, and the installation to the Army Reserve unit for coordinating the constrained availability of specialized ranges.
THE ACFT PROVIDES AN OPPORTUNITY
The new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) provides an opportunity for the Army Reserve to work together at the unit level to accomplish readiness tasks. The regional divisions manage the ACFT equipment as installation property, and center commanders across the region will coordinate with units within their respective microinstallations to accomplish the Army Combat Fitness Test with the resources on hand.
The Army Combat Fitness Test provides the reserve component an opportunity to collaborate at both the unit and command level on the same task. It is is an opportunity for the Army Reserve to look at readiness both vertically and horizontally.
The mission command structure reports to the FC chain of command and the success of the ACFT in terms of Pass and Fail as it pertains to readiness, from a vertical perspective.
The regional divisions and center commanders see the success of the ACFT in terms of equipment, test site locations, and unit collaboration across units at their microinstallation, from a horizontal perspective. Both vertical and horizontal aspects lend to increasing readiness at the unit level. There is a growing need for increased collaboration between Functional Commands and Readiness Divisions. Centralizing more tasks to the RDs would further increase the need to collaborate on readiness.
With the need for collaboration in mind, another recommendation is conducting quarterly meetings between Readiness Divisions and Functional Commands to collaborate to on centralized readiness objectives within the region.
LEADING THE WAY IN COMMAND COLLABORATION
As a way ahead, the 81st Regional Division and 335th Signal Command (Theater) along with other regional divisions and functional commands have engaged in an Effects Coordination Board as an initial effort to begin collaboration at the general officer level for readiness objectives in the southeast region. The coordination board or similar forum presents a prime opportunity for all Commanders to participate in the change process of building readiness in America's Army Reserve.
One task already centralized to the regional divisions that could benefit from the expansion is the appointment and training of center commanders. One recommendation is developing an Army Reserve requirement for unit commanders with the dual responsibility of unit and center command to attend the regional division-led center commander workshops. These workshops are designed to teach center commanders how to improve unit collaboration at the microinstallations.
Another recommendation is an Army Reserve command emphasis on the performance of dual commanders (unit and center command) in evaluation reports; as dual commanders seek to improve readiness vertically (within their command hierarchy), and horizontally (across units at their microinstallation). The functional command commanders with a command of a unit, and a center will have a more significant impact on Army Reserve readiness.
Further considerations for centralized tasks to the RDs could include maintenance training in G-Army software systems; and coordination of mobile marksmanship training systems which RDs could manage similar to the ACFT equipment and unit execution.
These recommendations do not suggest that commands can centralize all readiness building tasks to the regional divisions. Unit cohesion and collective effort arise from units training together. However, increasing the training time available to units save time by conducting centralized tasks that are coordinated and managed at the regional level by the divisions.
These recommendations do ring particularly true for the Army Reserve whose training days are limited to 39 days per year, consisting of 24 battle training assembly days and 15 annual training days.
Consequently, senior Army Reserve officials should review the individual readiness tasks that can be shifted from local unit to centralized regional management model to increase overall readiness, deliver better outcomes and reduce costs; benefiting the Soldiers, America's Army Reserve and the American taxpayer.
Maj. Gen. Peter A. Bosse is the commander of the 335th Signal Command (Theater) in East Point, Georgia.
Maj. Gen. Kenneth D. Jones is the commander of the 81st Readiness Division at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.