“Outside and above U.S. Army Forces Command, we have leaders who form the right strategies for our Army, but it is not until all these plans and ideas flow into FORSCOM, through echelons down to the U.S. Army squad, crew and team levels that strategy, doctrine, requirements, and modernization become ‘real readiness,’” the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command told senior military leaders and civilian experts Feb. 17.
“Many of us maneuver leaders are charged with translating theoretical plans and ideas into something real that Soldiers on the ground can see, touch, understand, experience, train for, and act on,” FORSCOM Commanding General Gen. Michael X. Garrett said.
Garrett’s virtual, televised remarks were part of the annual Maneuver Warfighter Conference (MANWARCON) Feb. 15-17 at Fort Benning, Ga., focusing on the changing character of war, U.S. Army modernization initiatives, the emerging challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, as well the vital roles of international allies and global partners in today’s rapidly changing world. The three-day military conference, both in-person and online, featured more than 24 speakers and presentations.
“Our Army’s strategy, doctrine, requirements, and modernization will only ever be as good as our Soldiers in the lowest-echelon formations and, in turn, our Soldiers and lowest-echelon formations will only ever be as good as their leaders’ ability to translate theory into practice,” Garrett said.
U.S. Army Forces Command trains and prepares a combat ready, globally responsive Total Force to build and sustain readiness to meet Combatant Command requirements.
Headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C., Forces Command has six priorities – including people, readiness and modernization.
“A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to travel down to Fort Benning and participate in a ceremony at the National Infantry Museum, where Infantry School Commandant Brig. Gen. Larry Burris and Command Sgt. Maj. Derrick Garner (U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence command sergeant major) presented my father, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Garrett, with the ‘Spirit of the Infantry’ award,” Garrett said. “Dad enlisted in 1959. He is the greatest noncommissioned officer I have ever known.”
“And what this award ceremony also gave me was an opportunity to pour over every file, letter and article we could find from his 35 years in the U.S. Army,” Garrett said. “In particular, an interview he gave late in his career stood out to me about his priorities as a young Soldier assigned to an Infantry squad. He said there were only three things he needed to be concerned with as a Soldier; learning to shoot his M-1 rifle correctly, learning how to be a member of a Browning automatic rifle crew and learning how to be a member of a 50-cal crew. Those were the only things he concerned himself with because those were the only things that were going to keep him and his teammates alive -- and the only things that were going to help accomplish his mission,” Garrett said.
“What I realized, reading back over my Dad’s words, was that he was talking about ‘mastering the fundamentals’ long before I started talking about it as the FORSCOM commanding general,” Garrett said. “The world will always change, as will the environments in which we operate and the technology we use, but what will never change is the foundation of what allows our force to fight and win: Soldiers who have mastered the fundamentals of their warfighting tasks.
“I’m talking about simple, but crucial skills like shooting and maintaining their weapon,” Garrett said, “knowing and following their unit’s battle drills and Standard Operating Procedures; rendering first aid; communicating up and down the chain of command; and being disciplined, trained and fit at the point of contact with the enemy.
Referring to the Fort Benning conference’s modernization theme, Garrett said, “the only reason any of us can afford to have a conversation about modernizing our force is because we trust our Soldiers to first master the fundamentals and sustain that mastery,” he said adding “The reason we trust our Soldiers’ ability to execute the basics is because we train relentlessly; over and over and over and over again,” he said. “That’s how Dad became an expert with his rifle, and it’s the reason I know, if needed, our Soldiers today can and will win a large-scale combat operation.”
“The little things matter,” Garrett said. Training is in the U.S. Army maneuver force’s DNA. “While you’re thinking about the important, theoretical ways in which we will evolve our force for the next fight, you also discuss the ways in which you will translate strategy and ideas into real readiness.”
Garrett elaborated on how to attain “real readiness” in today’s changing international environment.
“Even if we have an idea where the most likely and most dangerous courses of action may send us, ultimately we do not and cannot know these answers, and that’s where training becomes very important,” Garrett said, “because a maneuver force that is ready gives the nation options and decision space in the face of uncertainty. To preserve this decision space, every maneuver leader has to be very careful to not make the wrong assumptions about, or overestimate, the readiness of our forces.”
“We cannot assume we will have the time to train and deploy a ground force, whether in competition or conflict,” said Garrett. “We cannot assume we will be familiar with the terrain. We cannot assume the survivability of our command posts, maneuver formations or fighting platforms upon the first salvo of enemy artillery in the next major conflict. And, we cannot assume we know where we will fight next.”
Although the Maneuver Warfighter Conference focused on the Indo-Pacific region, “we have all watched in recent news, we’ve now sent additional units to Eastern Europe,” Garrett said. “We cannot afford to orient our sights only along one theater. Soldiers have to be ready to fight and win anywhere, and you get that by prioritizing time and resources for training at the lowest echelons.”
Concluding his remarks via virtual connection to Fort Benning, Garrett emphasized, “What I want you to take away from this discussion is that although there will always be surprises when it comes to fighting and winning the nation’s wars, one of the most dangerous assumptions you and I could make is that mastery is present within each of our crews, teams and squads.” He said.
“We cannot simply assume, or hope, mastery exists in a formation, rather, mastery has to be something leaders know exists for a fact because we see, measure, and validate it with our own eyes.”
The vision of U.S. Army Forces Command is to be “combat ready and globally responsive Total Army Forces that are well led, disciplined, trained, and expeditionary… ready now to deploy and win in Large Scale Combat Operations against near peer threats.”
Recorded Maneuver Warfighter Conference presentations and panel discussions are available at https://www.maneuverconference.com/