Tuesday, May 30, 2017 –
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Conversations came to a quick silence as Col. Robert Cooley, deputy commander of the Army Reserve’s 85th Support Command, walked to the front of the drill hall filled with Army Reserve battalion command teams and brigade staff members under operational control of First Army.
“We are a unique relationship unit,” Cooley said. “The 85th Support Command and our relationship with First Army, and our relationship with pre- and post-mobilization, is unlike anything else in the Army Reserve. (During) the next day and a half, we’re going to bring you everything you need to be successful.”
To better understand the practices and procedures that make up the hybrid relationship between First Army and the 85th SPT CMD, more than 80 reserve-component battalion command team and brigade support element staff members assigned to the 85th Support Command, but operationally controlled by First Army, traveled to Arlington Heights from around the country to participate in a New Command Teams Orientation held May 19-20.
Only active-component First Army brigade commanders and command staff members have participated in previous orientations. This is the first time reserve-component battalion command teams have been involved, and it’s a practice that will be continued, Cooley said.
The Army Reserve battalions, which make up half of First Army’s formation, are located in 24 states and Puerto Rico and have more than 3,500 Soldiers assigned.
There is a difference between Army Reserve and active-component methodology, processes and systems, Cooley explained, but both components achieve the same goals.
“Our (mindset) has to be able to divide and flip to both sides,” Cooley said. “You have to be able to speak the (active-component) language and vernacular and use it correctly, and you have to be able to provide the information to brigade (command teams) about what it means to be a reservist.”
The key point of the orientation was that the training support and logistics support battalions are the “tip of the spear”.
“If we have to mobilize more Soldiers, we go to the (Mobilization Force Generation Installations) to stand them up to receive Soldiers coming in. So, in terms of requirement, you can move a ready force or ‘Fight Tonight’ force to a mobilization platform, but if there’s no one there to support them and train them, then they’re just sitting there,” Cooley explained.
The Army Reserve is prioritized to support Fight Tonight assets, the ready force that has to be immediately available and ready to deploy to meet requirements worldwide. The commanders at the orientation help prepare these units’ readiness by supporting them in pre- and post-mobilization training and validating them to make sure they are ready for their overseas missions.
Battalion commanders at the orientation said they will be able to more effectively meet readiness requirements.
“The idea is conglomerating beyond (tactics, techniques and procedures), best practices, figuring out things and getting faces to names,” said Lt. Col. James Walton, 1st Battalion, 411th Logistics Support Regiment, 4th Cavalry Brigade. “My brigade is (active-component) heavy, but I have Reserve personnel. I know that a lot of personnel actions go through the (personnel and operations sections) at the 85th Support Command, so this gives me a chance to put a lot of names with faces and receive a lot of good information.”
“Specifically, we ought to know what our chain of command expects from us, how we can become better commanders, and how we can bring our units to the next level as far as readiness and training,” said Lt. Col. Walter Watts, 2nd Battalion, 348th Training Support Regiment, 177th Armored Brigade.
Supporting the briefing were the Brigade Support Elements, which are small support staffs built into the active-component brigades that assist and coordinate the reserve-component aspect within the First Army formation.
“Understanding overall what the BSE is supposed to do and how they interact with the 85th (Support Command) and the brigade as a whole is very essential, and so I think this (orientation) is excellent for ensuring that,” said Maj. Cecil Milligan, 157th Infantry Brigade BSE officer in charge. “A lot of people believe that the BSE is a separate entity, but we’re not. We are part of the brigade. We are just really focused on the reserve side of the house, but also focused on the AC side as well.”
Col. Shawn Klawunder, First Army chief of staff, said Army Reserve observer coach/trainers are integral to First Army’s mission in a resource-constrained environment.
“It’s important to understand that First Army works hand-in-hand with the 85th in everything that we do,” Klawunder said. “The readiness of our (operationally controlled) Army Reserve battalions is important, and the support we get through the brigade support elements is what is critical to maintaining that readiness.”
Brig. Gen. Frederick Maiocco Jr., 85th Support Command commanding general, said the 85th SPT CMD’s job is to help facilitate the First Army mission with its assigned Army Reserve resources.
“You are here to support what is going on at First Army… but you also have to make sure that you are representing the (Army Reserve) equities,” Maiocco said. “Our business is readiness. Our number one priority is readiness, readiness to accomplish the mission.”
Maiocco said that this unique mandate gives Army Reserve battalion commanders directives from First Army, as well as the 85th Support Command.
“First Army will give mission-type orders specific to missions that you have to support in the box. (85th Support Command) will give very specific orders that are associated with the administrative logistics needed to support that exercise, as well as the readiness-related indicator,” Maiocco said.
The orientation was a tremendous investment on both the Army Reserve command and First Army sides, Cooley said.
“The absolute end state of this is to make sure that our command teams understand that we are in a dynamic, complex, hybrid, multi-component relationship between 85th (Support Command) and First Army. Our commanders, with the support of the First Army team, need to understand that there is a multitude of team members and players here designed to get their mission done.”