ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Illinois - First Army Soldiers from across the nation recently tested their ability to mobilize large groups of the Reserve Component in support of operations against a peer adversary.

The exercise, known as Pershing Strike and conducted July 8 through July 19, validated First Army’s ability to establish and conduct command and control of large scale mobilization operations, expand mobilization force generation installation, or MFGI, capacity, and conduct post-mobilization operations at key bases around the country. These are similar to operations First Army conducted in World War I and World War II to ensure the National Guard and Reserve were ready to fight and win a potential conflict.

“In the possible event of a conflict with a peer adversary, we may need to facilitate the mobilization of National Guard and Reserve Soldiers at MFGI’s around the country,” said Lt. Col. John Burns, the chief of current operations for First Army. “There are a lot of moving parts to make that happen. It’s important we rehearse this and make sure First Army headquarters, divisions, and brigades are synchronized to make the mobilization actions as smooth as possible.”

First Army currently operates two active MFGI’s at Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Bliss, Texas. Through these MFGI’s, First Army Soldiers validate the training of National Guard and Reserve personnel for deployment to support combatant commander requirements. These missions include ensuring regional stability through Operation Spartan Shield in the Central Command area of responsibility, peacekeeping with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Kosovo, as well as NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Poland.

If mobilization requirements necessitate more Reserve Component Soldiers in the event of large scale combat operations against a peer adversary, First Army can expand their Reserve Component training and validation operations to currently inactive MFGI’s around the country. These include Fort Lewis, Washington, Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, Camp Atterbury, Indiana, Fort Stewart, Georgia, and Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

First Army Soldiers rehearsed activating all of these MFGI’s, simulating projected communication and logistics challenges for all staff sections at First Army headquarters. To augment the realism of the simulations, “stressor units” from the Reserve component on annual training tested capacity for division and brigade elements. These included the 16th Psychological Operations Battalion, the 389th Engineer Battalion, the 530th Military Police Battalion, and the 785th Military Police Battalion. First Army Observer Coach/Trainers certified these Soldiers on their mission essential tasks to build readiness of Reserve Component forces while support and communications units facilitated logistical operations.

Working as a stressor unit at Fort McCoy, Soldiers of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 389th Engineer Battalion certified on their annual training tasks by both constructing engineering obstacles on one day and destroying them the next, all under the mentorship of Observer Coach/Trainers from First Army’s 181st Infantry Brigade. The engineers built an earthen wall log obstacle and reinforced it with concertina wire. Then, the Soldiers used explosives to demolish the barricades they built. Soldiers of the unit appreciated the opportunity to practice their skills during the exercise.

“It lets the commander, as well as our battalion commander who is out here as well, see our units’ capabilities and how well we can execute our mission,” said unit member 1st Lt. Jacob Pekosh of the training.

Sergeant Major of the Army Michael A. Grinston visited Fort McCoy for the exercise. He observed the stressor units as they conducted their training and commented on the critical role First Army played in training and mobilizing the Reserve Component for deployment overseas.

“The role of First Army’s observer coach/trainer is extremely important as units mobilize,” Grinston said. “First Army brings them here, provides for them, shows them what they need to do, helps to build that teamwork and guides them through the training, and then validates those units to go off and do their mission. Without First Army and its OC/Ts, who else is going to bring that all together? If you’re trying to mobilize, it’s hard to do that all by yourself, so we need First Army to help them bring that cohesiveness.”

As Pershing Strike concluded, the 181st Infantry Brigade Commander, Col. Ronald Hughes, thought the exercise successfully accomplished its goals of integrating his Soldiers, supporting units, and the Fort McCoy garrison to support possible large scale combat operations.

“This exercise was unique in that it impacted the Army through all levels of military operations: tactical, operational and strategic,” Hughes said. “It was a great event for those units here for annual training, the units mobilizing for onward deployment to a theater of operations, and the Fort McCoy Enterprise that is now better prepared to execute larger mobilizations in the future."