Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, March 16, 2012- The Under Secretary of the Army, Dr. Joseph W. Westphal, visited with leaders of the 1st Mission Support Command, U.S. Army Reserve-Puerto Rico, to gain situational awareness and ensure that the U.S. Army is correctly prioritizing resources.
During the visit, Brig. Gen. Fernando Fernández, accompanied by Command Sgt. Maj. Rene Rivera, briefed Westphal about the command's capabilities, readiness and the support that the largest U.S. Army command in the Caribbean provides the nation.
"Approximately ninety five percent of our units have mobilized since 9/11. Despite that fact, voluntarism in the island continues being strong," said Fernández.
During the briefing to Westphal, Fernández also explained details about other missions being conducted by the US Army Reserve-Puerto Rico.
"Beside the continuous support that we provide to the Army's commitments abroad [combat operations], our current operations also include annual training exercises, both in the states and overseas, as well as participation in Theater Security Cooperation missions," said Fernández.
Participation in Theater Security Cooperation missions has been identified by Army Reserve leaders as one of the possible ways the Reserve forces can apply the operational nature of its forces and the institutional knowledge gained after a decade of persistent conflict.
The future of the Army was also a subject of discussion between Fernández and Westphal.
"Naturally, as we reshape the force, we have to be much more creative in sustaining the readiness for the Reserve forces. We need to look at the last ten years of combat operations and how you contributed to that effort, what lessons we take from that and how we need to be ready for future challenges, while sustaining the requirements here in Puerto Rico," said Westphal while explaining how the Army is embracing the need to adapt to forced budget cuts.
The entire Army just has to be smarter about how it does business, Westphal suggested, saying that sustainability is at the forefront of senior leaders' minds. "We have to ensure that we can do effectively what we are required to do today, but that we leave the capacity and the capability for future generations to carry on the mission. So our biggest challenge is to ensure that the future Army, the Army of 2020, will have the capability and the capacity to prevent, shape and win."
While in Puerto Rico, Under Secretary Westphal also met with key government officials, National Guard leadership and delivered the keynote address during the ROTC ball at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras.