POTOMAC, Md. (Army News Service, Feb. 14, 2012) -- During the fifth Unified Quest seminar last week, many participants said one Army National Guard program could go far in expanding capabilities for the force of the future.

The State Partnership Program already pairs National Guard commands with more than 60 nations around the world for training and civil-military cooperation. Participants in Unified Quest felt expanding this type of partnership could help build capacity to shape the Army of 2020.

"The utility of the Guard and the Reserve in this shaping operation is absolutely huge and in my opinion deserves a lot of deep-mining and rigorous thinking and analysis into how to get more out of this," said retired Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, senior fellow at the Institute for The Study of War.

At Unified Quest, hosted by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Feb. 7-10, four working groups of experts throughout the Army, Defense Department, combatant commands, think tanks, special forces and other government agencies focused on how the Army will build partners and capacity in their quest to shape the future Army.

The discussion also focused on determining what "shaping the operational environment" means for the Army, what the Army's role will be in this shaping process, and the risks, challenges and authorities required to perform this function in an era of constrained resources.

"I want to make a couple of points and the first is the use of the reserve component," said Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commander of U.S. Army Europe. "We have 27 states working with 27 different countries (in Europe) and they all do a phenomenal job, primarily at the lower tactical level," said Hertling.

"It's usually small-unit level, medical training, (and) stuff like that. Here in Europe, the RC is asked to address civil affairs, disaster relief, medical attention and training of forces. So those two forces from a reserve-component perspective, one coming to us from the United States, the other being stationed over here with reservists who are living and working in Europe, have both been very effective.

If you're going to build forces, he said, you have to build them at that lower tactical level and at the operational level and then make the partnering and building that trust with senior levels within the military.

Gen. Robert W. Cone, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, said he was aware of the efforts of the reserve components in terms of partnering with foreign nations.

"But I think when General Hertling spoke about the 27 relationships the National Guard has with other countries, my eyes were opened. The Army is in a period of transition and the nation is in a period of transition, looking toward the post-Afghanistan period and with our operational construct of prevent, shape and win, really want to examine opportunities in the area of building partner capacity," Cone said.

Ten years ago, he said, the conventional forces of the Army did not have a very good understanding of that. He said since then many Soldiers have spent a significant amount of time understanding the power of developing personal relationships, and the power of building capacity in other nations.

"Over the past 10 years, it has been noted by a number of combatant commanders -- as the Army has been extremely busy in Iraq and Afghanistan, that we have not necessarily met all of the requirements for building partner capacity with the combatant commanders, and what this seminar was about today was really taking the big idea of building partner capacity as a shaping operation and bringing in all of the people who hold equities in this, and sort of, sharing their operations and thought on a way ahead," Cone said.

"You know," said Hertling, "I work with the Illinois National Guard and I know the tremendous relationship they have with Poland. I mean, how do we capture that and better structure it in this larger shaping relationship," said Hertling from his office in Europe.

Prior to this assignment, Hertling served as deputy commanding general for Initial Military Training at TRADOC.

"In my 32-year career, the best relationship we've had with Guard, Reserve and Active forces has come in these last 10 years where we have worked arm-in-arm, as brothers and sisters in combat, and I'll tell you if anybody wants to back off from that is going in the wrong direction," Hertling said.

The National Guard, he said, has been a central player in all of these discussions. (They were) well-represented here today and we need to listen very carefully to what their concerns are and how they think we can best maintain this relationship into the future. There will be trade-offs, but keeping this force closely linked is a major objective of all that we have done.

"I view regional alignment as a readiness and not a detractor. To me, the power of the construct is that we are gathering information, that we are teaching our great, young Soldiers on culture, language, and sort of the overall climate that exists within those countries," Hertling said.

This young generation of war fighters, he said, who have been fighting this war for the last 10 years, say they're not too excited about being in an Army that is out of contact with the rest of the world.

Training, he said, needs to be important. Soldiers are focused on going downrange, to where the challenge exists.

"This young generation wants to dedicate their intellectual energies to solving real problems in the world, as opposed to exercising hypothetical problems. There's value in that but it's nowhere near as stimulating as focusing on real-world contingencies and problems," Hertling said.

"What we have found in our group participation," said Mike Knippel, transformation integrator, G-3 Strategic Initiatives Division at FORSCOM, is that the reserve component, both the Army Reserve and the National Guard, have capacity, aligned or oriented, to the theaters.

"The Guard's program (that has been talked about here today) is called the State Partnership Program where it already has relationships with countries throughout the world -- states have relationships with countries, (such as Georgia, the sovereign state in Eurasia, and Georgia in the U.S). Refocus on those within the region and gain some synergy on those activities and programs and then allow that now to mature with the greater Army effort and I think we would see some real benefit," Knippel said.

But other aspects to ensuring this happens were also discussed.

"I think the problem really needs to be not so much how do we keep the experience of the RC up, but how do we maintain a sustained relationship and clearly the RC is part of that solution," said Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahue, director of Concepts Development and Learning Directorate, Army Capabilities Integration Center at TRADOC.

The reserve components, he said, are an integral part of the Army's solution for maintaining sustained relationships. For effective partnerships, there must be a sustained relationship, he said.

"We have to think about a future security environment in ways that we can take advantage of this tremendous Army and this great young generation of leaders who've done so much for us and find ways to better leverage our investment in them and their investment in our nation," said Lt. Gen. Keith C. Walker, deputy commanding general of Futures and director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center at TRADOC.

To learn more, visit Unified Quest at http://www.arcic.army.mil/unified-quest.html.