ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. - When Soldiers receive orders for Rock Island Arsenal, many say they've never heard of it. But after spending a short time here, they come to realize what a huge impact RIA has on the U.S. Army and the nation's defense.

During a visit here on July 18, the second-ranking officer in the U.S. Army saw for himself what many other Soldiers and high-ranking military and civilian leaders have seen before: RIA plays a vital role in delivering readiness to the front lines.

"Rock Island Arsenal's impact across our Army is huge," said Gen. James C. McConville. "The critical role the installation plays in Total Army readiness, sustainment, and modernization can't be overstated."

As vice chief of staff of the Army, McConville is the Army's second-ranking officer.

During the visit, McConville learned about the myriad of missions performed on this installation established in 1862 on a three-mile-long island in the Mississippi River.

McConville kicked off his visit to RIA at First U.S. Army headquarters, where Lt. Gen. Thomas James, commanding general, and his staff provided an overview of First Army's critical mission, enabling readiness of the Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve.

First Army, which moved to RIA in 2011, partners with all Army National Guard and Army Reserve units in the continental United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to enable their formations to deliver trained and ready units for worldwide contingencies. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, First Army has mobilized, trained and deployed more than 1.3 million personnel for global deployments.

During his visit to First Army, McConville emphasized the criticality of its mission to partner with, train and deploy the entirety of the nation's Army Reserve and Army National Guard.

"I am a big proponent of the Total Force," he said. "More than half of our
Army is in the Guard and Reserve."

McConville stressed that the Army needs to streamline its talent management system to maximize the skills and experience that Guard and Reserve Soldiers bring to the table from their civilian careers.

"What these Soldiers bring to our force is absolutely incredible," he said, "and we need to make sure we're placing people effectively, figuring out how to put them in the places where they can best bring all their talents to the team."

McConville emphasized that all Army training -- for active as well as Reserve forces -- must be rigorous, realistic and relevant.

The bottom line, McConville said, is that the Army cannot fight and win wars without the Reserve Component, which he pointed out has been decisive in every conflict the nation has ever had.

"The enemy doesn't differentiate between what component you're from," he said. "They don't care how many training days you've had. The enemy is unforgiving in combat, and every Soldier in every unit must stand ready."

Following his visit to First Army, McConville was greeted by Gen. Gus Perna, commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC); Maj. Gen. Duane Gamble, commanding general of the U.S. Army Sustainment Command (ASC); Maj. Gen. Daniel G. Mitchell, commanding general of the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM); and Brig. Gen. Michelle M.T. Letcher, commanding general of the U.S. Joint Munitions Command (JMC). AMC, which is headquartered at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, serves as the higher headquarters for several of the major organizations based on the Arsenal, including ASC, JMC, and the RIA-Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center (RIA-JMTC), which falls under TACOM.

"Army Materiel Command is operationalizing efforts to meet Army priorities. Across the AMC enterprise, we are delivering readiness today, setting the capability to surge, and supporting modernization," Perna said. "The various commands here at Rock Island Arsenal play a critical role in these efforts."

McConville was briefed on the missions and current status of ASC, JMC and RIA-JMTC. A summary of what McConville was told during these engagements follows:

• RIA-JMTC, develops, manufactures and delivers readiness solutions through conventional and advanced manufacturing processes for the Army and other Department of Defense agencies. It serves as the Army's multipurpose metal manufacturer.
• ASC integrates and synchronizes the delivery of unique AMC logistical capabilities and enablers at the operation and tactical points of need in order to enable readiness, strength and speed.
• JMC provides the Army and other services with ready, reliable and lethal munitions at the right place and right time to sustain global operations.

"Whether it's training National Guard and Army Reserve units or meeting the Army's global sustainment needs," McConville said, "Soldiers and civilians at Rock Island are providing the Total Army critical functions and capabilities necessary to be ready today even as we prepare for tomorrow."

McConville also toured RIA-JMTC's manufacturing area. During this tour, McConville was taken through the Center of Excellence for Advanced and Additive Manufacturing, which was established last year and reached initial operating capability earlier this year, and which supports the Army's overall modernization efforts.

"We can't have an industrial age Army in the information age," McConville said after seeing the center. "The Rock Island Arsenal team took a hard look at their manufacturing operations and came to that conclusion. That same approach needs to be applied to everything our Army does."

McConville also learned that RIA is home to other DoD organizations and private companies -- about 60 in all -- and provides services and support to more than 54,000 active duty, reserve, and retired military personnel and family members living within a 150-mile radius of the installation.