Opportunities abound during Regional Total Army Conference

By Master Sgt. Duff E. McFadden | Joint Forces Headquarters, Iowa National Guard | Jan. 25, 2017

January 24, 2017 — If the intention is to train as you fight, then it only makes sense for all elements of the U.S. Army’s Total Force – Active Duty, U.S. Army Reserve, and National Guard – to synchronize efforts to provide rigorous and realistic readiness training for today’s Soldiers.

During the Regional Total Army Conference, held Jan. 18-19, at the Camp Dodge Joint Maneuver Training Center in Johnston, Iowa, the Total Force did just that, discussing training collaborations and key event updates amongst regional partners.  

Participants included Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma National Guard officials, as well as representatives from U.S. Army Reserve units, such as the 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) based in Des Moines, Iowa, their higher headquarters, the 377th Theater Sustainment Command, of New Orleans, La., and the 451st Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), of Wichita, Kan.

The Active Duty Army was represented by officials from the First Army Division West, headquartered at Fort Hood, Texas, and the “Big Red One,” the 1st Infantry Division, headquartered at Fort Riley, Kan.

According to Col. Will Duvall, Chief of Staff, First Army Division West, the conference provided a welcome opportunity to share information and, “to drive our part of those training requirements. It’s great how we can assist in meeting states’ training opportunities and improving readiness.

“I think this opportunity has been very beneficial for everyone. We all see ourselves in this ever-changing training environment. With the focus on specific training opportunities, it’s been a positive effort to assist each other.”

Lt. Col. Randy Maender, Operations Officer (G-3), 1st Infantry Division, agreed how the forum’s intent was to identify opportunities for the National Guard, Reserves and active Army to train together in order to “build mission readiness and build best practices.

“It provides a great opportunity for commanders to drive their training for the next two to three years. We can identify a lot of opportunities to benefit our overall readiness,” he said.

Besides receiving situational updates from the First Army Division West, attendees also sought to address training shortfalls and external requirements, as well as identifying the way forward for the Regional Partnership concept.

Maj. Gen. Tim Orr, the Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard and event host, noted how this dialog between all three components – on how to work, train and fight together – needs to continue.

“I believe this is one of the best Total Force partner programs in the country,” Orr said. “With representation from the First ID and from the USAR and National Guard from the surrounding states, this relationship is a model for the nation.”

Orr also pointed out there’s always room for improvement. “We need to continue reaching out to those components that aren’t here,” he said. “There’s only a small group of Reserves here and we need to see a bigger footprint to make a bigger impact.”

For the Reserves, the conference represented a functional, realistic opportunity to continue the Total Army concept, said Brig. Gen. Jonathan McColumn, the 103rd ESC commander. “The taxpayers love it and the Reserve component has much to gain from it.

“It’s a win-win for all, in that we can stretch training venues for both components, Army Reserve and National Guard, and it’s an opportunity for both to discover what would’ve previously been unavailable training opportunities. This concept has been often talked about, but rarely pursued.

“We are now pursuing it," McColumn said.

However, it may have been one unique Camp Dodge facility that perhaps had the biggest impact on the two-day conference. For many of these visitors, this may have been their first exposure to a little-known training gem nestled within the more than 4,300 acres of Camp Dodge. With fewer distractions, a low teacher-to-student ratio, and interactive, hands-on training using state-of-the-art equipment, the Sustainment Training Center features an inimitable educational environment for today’s Army.

The STC, along with the Mission Training Complex – Dodge, provides collective-level training to support battalions, distribution companies, field maintenance companies, support maintenance companies, brigade support medical companies and infantry brigade combat teams. Originally established in 1991, it’s since evolved into a one-stop shop for all sustainment training needs.

The Camp Dodge facility has already caught the eye of top Army brass. On Feb. 19, Maj. Gen. Flem B. Walker, Jr., the Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics (G-4) for U.S. Army Forces Command, toured the Camp Dodge facility.

Walker’s visit came quickly on the heels of Gen. Robert Abrams’ visit to the STC. Abrams, the U.S. Army Forces Command commander, toured the facility during his two-day visit to observe Total Force Soldiers training at the STC, and to engage Iowa Army National Guard Soldiers in one-on-one conversations.

Walker commented on how there were some unique niche capabilities here at Camp Dodge that he hasn’t seen anywhere else.

“One of our priorities in Forces Command is to master the fundamentals. That training center is a big part of mastering the fundamentals for some specific Military Occupation Specialties in our Army,” Walker said.

“Camp Dodge is an incredible resource,” said Duvall. “It’s a wonderful presence that’s relatively unknown across the Army, especially with the STC and its unique training opportunities. There are many state-of-the-art operations here. Brigade Support Battalions and FSCs (Forward Support Companies) need to take a look at those capabilities Camp Dodge has to offer to train their teams”

Despite the presence of a first-class training facility such as STC, Iowa’s biggest challenge appears to be just how to promote those distinctive training opportunities within the Total Army.

“That’s hard to do, with the best kept secret of the sustainment community here,” said Orr. “The challenge now, is to get our message out there.”

After hosting the Regional Total Army Conference, it would appear that Iowa may have taken a step in the right direction, much to the benefit of the Total Force.