WASHINGTON -- Despite the impacts of COVID-19, the Army successfully met all its mission requirements in fiscal year 2021 including a no-notice deployment of the 82nd Airborne Division to Afghanistan in August, the service’s top enlisted leader said Thursday.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston considers that no small feat. He said the Army’s success can largely be credited to the service’s People Strategy, which prioritizes optimizing the talents and abilities of Soldiers while building unit cohesion to boost mission readiness.
“We’ve missed no deployments,” Grinston said during a virtual Defense Writers Group discussion. “And we’re more ready than we’ve ever been. We did focus on our readiness, and then we've supported everything and every requirement that the Army or the nation has asked us to do in the last year.”
The Army completed all deployments in fiscal 2020 and 2021, he said, as well as 37 combat readiness training center rotations and exercises such as Project Convergence last summer and the Army-led multinational exercise, Defender Europe, in the spring.
Grinston said that the Army boosts readiness by prioritizing Soldiers first while continuing to focus on the service’s other obligations such as modernization.
“If our people aren't ready, I don't understand how we can be a ready Army,” he said.
“It's not people first versus readiness; it’s people first that equals readiness in the Army. If I'm more fit, I'm a better [rifleman]; that's about me as a person. If I'm not fit and I can't shoot my weapon, I'm not very lethal.”
The Army has also moved closer to fully implementing its talent management assessments for sergeants major and first sergeants, a process designed to better assess Soldiers for key leadership positions.
Grinston said that the brigade-level Sergeant Major Assessment Program will become the standard evaluation for promotion beginning in November. He added that the service will begin a battalion-level evaluation at the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, early next year.
Among the changes to the brigade-level evaluation will be removing time in service as a variable to compete for promotion, he said. Testing for the assessment began in November 2020 with the evaluation of about 30 brigade-level sergeants major at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
“If you're fit, disciplined, highly trained, and you know you can do more … we're not going to limit you by time in service to be a brigade CSM,” Grinston said. “In November, if you pass that assessment and you've made the list and we need you, then you get to be a brigade [command] sergeant major.”
The Army recently completed the pilot phase of its First Sergeant Talent Alignment Assessment and has taken the next step in its evaluation process at Fort Carson, Colorado. The assessment examines master sergeants on their cognitive, leadership and decision-making abilities.
Grinston said soon Soldiers who do not meet desired standards of the assessment will not qualify to be selected as first sergeants. He said that he expects the assessment to become a requirement by October 2022.
The first pilot evaluated 13 master sergeants at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, late last year, followed by assessments with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, and locations in Alaska earlier this year.
“We want to be able to pick a more lethal, competent first sergeant of character,” Grinston said.