Since assuming duties as commander of U.S Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM), Lt. Gen. Douglas M. Gabram has been at the forefront of building the foundation of readiness across the strategic support area (SSA). Overseeing a workforce of over 50,000 in 75 worldwide installations, Gabram and the IMCOM team integrate and deliver base support to enable a self-reliant and globally-responsive Army. With multiple combat deployments, from captain to general officer, Gabram has an operational and strategic perspective on how installations are warfighting enablers of readiness.What focus areas have you established since taking command?Last year, IMCOM was realigned under Army Materiel Command (AMC). While I won’t speak for our complete history or the accomplishments of the great leaders who came before me, I think the realignment is the best thing that’s happened to this organization. Now, we have the power of the patch—synergy with the other major subordinate commands of AMC—and a four-star commander behind us all promoting unity of command and unity of effort.It also helps us evolve. One of IMCOM’s enduring priorities has been infrastructure. Now, with the weight of the entire AMC enterprise behind us, we are elevating our military construction and strengthening our restoration and modernization efforts across the Army. We’ve coordinated a facility investment strategy with Army commands and Army service component commands, and will be working across the enterprise to bring it to fruition in the coming year.Perhaps most important is our role in the SSA, on which AMC is laser-focused. It’s all about how we project combat power at echelon, and Gen. Gustave “Gus” Perna has brilliantly led us through the seven focus areas. Three of those fall directly into IMCOM’s portfolio: Soldier, Civilian, and Family Readiness; Installation Readiness; and Strategic Power Projection Readiness. Simply put, the SSA, and specifically our installations, are where we fight from and where we generate the nation’s military power.Through Perna’s superior leadership over the past three-plus years, we—the entire AMC enterprise—have done incredible work and I think you can really see and feel the tangible change in where we’re heading. At the end of the day, we’ve enabled readiness for the ArmyWhat has the response to the COVID-19 pandemic done to help further define the SSA?I think it’s put a direct spotlight on the SSA in action: the entire enterprise has been stressed to respond to an atypical threat. But in a lot of ways, it’s really no different than a combat operation—and I often refer to it that way. We fight the enemy, not the plan.For us, it’s all about enabling commanders and mission command at every installation. We are the “i-n-g”—we are supporting tactical battalion and brigade commanders, along with their senior commanders, to actually go fight the fight. They are the supported commander. I think it’s important to understand that distinction and to highlight the role our garrison commanders play in supporting that readiness. As the integrator of services, they’re essentially the mayors of each of our 75-plus installations across the globe. I can’t overstate the criticality of that mission, especially during our Army’s response to COVID-19. I truly believe garrison commanders are the center of gravity for installation readiness.Couple that with how we’re structured organizationally and you begin to see the power of a cohesive, integrated SSA. Our IMCOM directorates are task-organized by function and co-located with the organization they are directly supporting: Training (U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command), Readiness (U.S. Army Forces Command), Sustainment (Army Materiel Command), Europe, and Pacific. In doing so, each of those directorates enables integration among garrison commanders while providing a direct reach back to our headquarters.When the outbreak first started to accelerate, this network enabled best practices at echelon to be shared quickly from our garrison commanders to higher headquarters commanders, and vice versa. A lot of folks don’t realize just how much the lessons learned from our installations in Korea, Germany, and Italy have helped the Army—if not the entire Department of Defense—respond as the threat moved to the continental United States. It’s a real-world example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. It’s been a powerful sight.The other piece is the battlefield: It’s now a home game, where before it was always an away game. FOBs as we used to know them—our forward operating bases when we’re deployed—are now our installations. For many of our Soldiers, Civilians, and families, the fight has become much more personal than it has been in the past.Again though, we fight the enemy not the plan. Responding to the current environment has not only proved and reinforced our relationships within the Army, it’s also strengthened relationships with our surrounding communities and business leaders. All of our battalion, brigade, garrison, and senior commanders are fighting as one team. They certainly did before, but remember, battalions and brigades usually deploy their forces while garrison commanders stay back at he installation. Now they’re all geographically co-located on the “FOB” together fighting this invisible enemy. That synergy has been very powerful.What role does the SSA area play in winning in a multi-domain environment?It’s absolutely critical for success on the future battlefield. Our adversaries know and understand they can’t beat us in a straight-up fight. However, I believe they have had their eyes on us in recent months to see how we’ve been able to protect our installations and our people while remaining ready and maintaining our ability to project power in the COVID-19 environment.That said, I’m confident in the preparation we’ve done thus far. Last fall, IMCOM played a central role in the U.S. Forces Command Deployment and Mobilization Rock Drill and the First Army Mobilization Force Generation Installation Exercise. Here, we brought supporting and supported commanders together to identify potential gaps and vulnerabilities and find ways to mitigate them. This spring we are participating in SSA forums, hosted by AMC, where each member of the SSA walks through how they employ capabilities in support of the mission and determine solutions to the collective issues we face as this doctrine continues to evolve.What are some of the changes we will see as we modernize and strengthen our military communities?IMCOM is the Army’s home, and it’s Perna’s vision that every installation is a Soldier’s and family’s number one choice. That’s a powerful statement, but as the foundation of the SSA for over a million Soldiers, civilians, and their families, we’re committed to making it a reality.The chief of staff says that people drive the Army. He’s outlined five quality of life focus areas and IMCOM is responsible for driving four of them to this vision:HousingChildcareSpouse employmentPermanent change-of-station movesA great example of our efforts in all these areas is the detailed planning we’ve done in coordination with Human Resources Command, Army Sustainment Command, and others to ensure the seamless transition of students this summer from the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, and the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss. The team worked hard, solved problems, and learned valuable lessons while planning the massive swap over of students this summer. In housing, we learned what it will take to execute all necessary actions between occupants to provide each student and their family a quality set of quarters upon arrival. We are looking at child care availability on each garrison and how to increase it both on and off post. These three garrisons are conducting virtual hiring fairs for spouses and other information-sharing activities to give them a heads up on available jobs, both on post and in local communities. And, of course, we strengthened our relationships and communication streams with moving company leaders and industry reps to jointly plan the surge that will happen when we execute these missions.Clearly, the response to COVID-19 has thrown several big wrenches into our plans; but because we were well on our way to determining a solution set when it hit, our team was able to take a measured approach because we were adjusting from a known point instead of making it up from scratch.So while we’re certainly reevaluating our environment based on the impacts of COVID-19, we haven’t taken our eyes off our people, especially in these four key areas. We will continue to adapt these quality-of-life initiatives and make them even stronger moving forward. There’s no alternative.What message do you have for our Soldiers, civilians, and families in the face of challenging and uncertain times?I think it’s important to echo Perna’s guidance to the enterprise as the pandemic really started expanding, which was to protect the force, prevent the spread of the virus, and accomplish the worldwide mission. In doing that, my message is what I call “The Three Ps”: protect yourself, so we can protect the force, so the force can protect the nation.It all starts with protecting yourself. When the airplane is at 30,000 feet and the oxygen masks drop, who do you put the mask on first? You put it on yourself; You have to take care of yourself so you can help your friends and your family members. It’s no different in today’s environment. We’re all in very unique positions we’ve never experienced before, but we must do our part at the personal level so we can protect the force and the force can protect the nation.--------------------Arpi Dilanian is a strategic analyst in the Army Logistics Initiatives Group, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, Department of the Army. She holds a bachelor's degree from American University and a master's degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.Matthew Howard is a strategic analyst in the Logistics Initiatives Group, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, Department of the Army. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Georgetown University--------------------This article was published in the July-September 2020 issue of Army Sustainment.RELATED LINKSArmy Sustainment homepageThe Current issue of Army Sustainment in pdf formatCurrent Army Sustainment Online ArticlesConnect with Army Sustainment on LinkedInConnect with Army Sustainment on Facebook