Enduring priorities drive First Army

By Warren Marlow | First Army | Jan. 28, 2020

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. —

During the first World War, General of the Armies John J. Pershing noted that the United States Army no longer differentiated between its active and reserve component forces. He famously said, “Our purpose is to think only of the American citizen and to prepare him for the duties of war.”

Pershing served as the commander of First Army during the Great War, and the current First Army Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Thomas S. James Jr., emphasized that Pershing’s words are just as relevant 101 years later.

James oversees a unit whose mission is to prepare reserve component units and Soldiers for the rigors of sustained multi-domain combat. To accomplish this, there are five enduring priorities on which First Army focuses: Total Force Readiness through partnerships; Large Scale Ground Combat Operations (LSGCO); leadership development; taking care of First Army team members; and risk management.

In order to enable Total Force Readiness, First Army brigades and battalions forge and build partnerships with their reserve component counterparts. Constant communication and teamwork helps ensure that Army Reserve and Army National Guard personnel have the tools and resources necessary to succeed in their missions. By emphasizing Total Force Readiness, units and leaders in all components are prepared to mobilize and deploy on short notice and win on a multi-domain battlefield.

This is crucial to winning the nation’s wars since there would be substantial mobilization of reserve component forces during an LSGCO, which is a protracted conflict with a near-peer adversary in an austere, ever-changing environment. The Total Force needs to be able to respond when the enemy gets its proverbial “vote.” The training reserve component forces receive from subject matter experts will make the difference during these times.

They receive this training from First Army observer, coach/trainers (OC/Ts), who exemplify leadership by mastering doctrine and drilling into the fundamentals of shooting, maneuvering, communicating, medicating, decontaminating and sustaining. First Army leaders also conduct rigorous planning and continually evaluate a unit’s needs. This development and honing of crucial traits guarantees that First Army has fit professionals that connect with subordinates using transformational leadership. This is an ongoing, cyclical approach that includes continually working to recruit and retain the best officers and NCOs.

Additionally, First Army leaders take care of team members by employing a holistic approach that emphasizes respect and professionalism. By taking care of Soldiers, leaders make the mission more likely to succeed.

Leaders ensure Soldiers are taken care of through such initiatives as Family Readiness Groups, robust Equal Opportunity programs and Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention.

These initiatives assist with another of First Army’s enduring priorities: Managing risk by exercising the principles of mission command. Risk management is also accomplished by empowering subordinates to do their jobs, giving them guidance and resources and then letting them execute. When deployed, a unit may find itself in austere conditions with communications cut or lacking. In these circumstances, commanders will feel emboldened to take charge of the situation since they have been given the directive to do so. Mission command operates on the principle of trusting subordinates to plan, coordinate, and execute decision-making in complex operating environments, and this principle helps drive First Army.

Concentrating on all five priorities simultaneously helps First Army to enable its reserve component partners achieve readiness. First Army is a team of Army professionals, fit for the rigors of sustained multi-domain combat and forged by productive relationships with reserve component partners, whom it provides tough, realistic, multi-echelon training. The team remains bonded by a common purpose that continues the mission Pershing envisioned more than a century ago.

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