ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- The Army cannot fight and win the nation's wars without leveraging the unique capabilities of both its components: active and reserve. America's reserve-component forces have been essential and decisive in every large-scale conflict this nation has ever had.

First Army, whose mission is to enable Reserve Component readiness, brought its command teams and Senior Advisors to the Army National Guard here to train them on First Army operations and prepare them for their crucial mission. Coming together from geographically dispersed areas, the commanders, command sergeants major and advisors were given the opportunity to dialogue with First Army senior leaders and staff during a command team certification held Sept. 23-26.

Discussions and breakout sessions afforded attendees the chance to gain a better understanding of First Army's role in enabling readiness and also of its mission to implement Army Total Force Policy, or ATFP. Total Force Policy directs that the Army organize, man, train and equip our active and reserve components as an integrated force. A combat-ready, operational reserve component must be poised to mobilize and deploy quickly to meet the nation's needs in an increasingly dangerous world.

"It's important that we have a total force headquarters and organization that focuses on total force readiness 24/7, and that's what we do," said First Army commanding general, Lt. Gen. Thomas S. James, Jr. "Readiness is hugely important. It's the number one priority in the Army." One way to achieve readiness, he continued, is through "realistic, rigorous and relevant training."

James also fully articulated the long, successful history of the active and reserve components working together.

"The partnership between us, the Guard and the Reserve has been forged in blood for over 100 years," he said. "We're more than a team, we're bonded. Total Force readiness is preparing units and leaders to mobilize, deploy, fight and win on a multi-domain, complex battlefield."

That only succeeds because of the people committed to the mission, James noted. "It's an honor for me to serve on this team, and it's the leaders in this room that make this such a special organization," he said. "We want to pull you into the organization…and help you to understand the complexities of Army Total Force Policy and how the Army National Guard and Army Reserve fit into the total Army. We enable total force readiness through partnerships and we've got to build those partnerships as early and often as possible."

First Army senior leaders provided more detailed information during the breakout sessions, and that dialogue paid off, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Owen Alexander, senior enlisted Soldier for First Army Division West's 1-393rd Brigade Support Battalion, 120th Infantry Regiment. Alexander said he gained a greater appreciation of Army Total Force Policy.

"Army Total Force Policy was not a new concept for me, but coming here allowed me to better see the role we play and how we are tied into the bigger picture of that policy," he said. "It gives me perspective on my role in the process."

The certification also helped Alexander better understand the organization and needs of the Army Reserve and Army National Guard. "I'm from the active component, and this conference has definitely been insightful and has given me an in-depth understanding of the structure of the Reserve Component. It's important for us to establish partnerships with Reserve Component units, so we can work together to help them achieve their objectives and be ready to deploy."

Echoing those sentiments was Command Sgt. Maj. Wayne Marek, senior enlisted Soldier for First Army Division West's 2-361st Training Support Battalion, 181st Infantry Brigade.

"Our people are our most important resource," he said. "We need to make sure that they're taken care of and get the best training possible."

Established in 1918 under Gen. John J. Pershing's American Expeditionary Forces during World War I, First Army is America's oldest field army. First Army's legacy of victory in France led to the reduction of the St. Mihiel Salient and the defeat of the German Army in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign near Verdun. During World War II, First Army, under the command of Gen. Omar N. Bradley, led all ground forces during the D-Day invasion, establishing an impressive list of "firsts" as they pushed across Europe: first on the beaches of Normandy, first out of the Normandy beachhead, first into Paris, first to break the Siegfried Line, first to cross the Rhine River and first to link up with the Soviet Army at the Elbe River.

Today, First Army partners with all Army Reserve and Army National Guard units in the continental United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to advise, assist and train their formations to achieve Department of the Army directed readiness goals and deliver trained and ready Reserve Component units to support global requirements.

Since 9/11, First Army has mobilized over 1.2 million service members, as well as joint and interagency personnel, for worldwide contingencies.