ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. –
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – Army Total Force Policy continues to develop between the Army’s active and reserve component forces working, and training together to execute their missions in a uniformed and seamless manner.
First Army, an active duty command and the Army Reserve’s 85th Support Command play a crucial role in ATFP training, and preparing the most capable, combat ready and lethal Federal Reserve force in support of the Army’s and Joint war-fighter missions.
Challenges arise due to the fact that active duty and reserve components do not work on the same systems to keep a Soldier functional such as personnel, funding, and legal actions for Soldiers. For a variety of reasons, the systems are different. The difficulty is when an active duty army colonel and command sergeant major are assigned to First Army, and learn that they are now responsible for active duty battalions as well as Army Reserve battalions.
The 85th Support Command held an orientation brief to newly assigned First Army brigade command teams to educate them on Reserve component personnel actions and processes.
“The most important part of being involved in this process is to make sure that the new leaders are informed of the priorities that we have in place. Readiness is the most important objective that we have right now, and that we can only do this in a partnership effort,” said Brig. Gen. Kris Belanger, Commanding General, 85th Support Command. “The way to understand that is to understand your left and right partners, so this is a collaborative effort to achieve the same goal.”
Col. Shawn Klawunder, First Army’s chief of staff, shared the importance for newly assigned brigade commanders to understand the Army Reserve system in order to best support the readiness of these battalions, so they can employ them for mobilization and observer coach/trainer missions.
“The new brigade command teams, brigade commanders and command sergeants major, for First Army are critically important because as a multi-component organization, they have to work together with their Army Reserve (operationally-controlled) battalions,” said Klawunder. “The better they understand the challenges and the different systems in the Army Reserve, the better they can employ those OC/Ts and those battalions.”
Command team members are faced with issues such as how to fill and maintain units, retention and recruitment of Army Reserve Soldiers, transfer actions, funding of Soldiers and missions within the constructs of the Army Reserve.
“(The briefing) allows the brigade command teams to understand what it is that is unique about these units, and how to better prepare them within the constructs of the Army Reserve operating environment,” said Kevin Greene, Staff Operations and Training Officer, 85th Support Command. “It allows them to focus their efforts on ways to better train and prepare their Army Reserve Soldiers using the 85th Support Command, be it from funding, logistical support, medical support, legal support, etcetera.”
Greene further added that these brigade commanders, as senior leaders, may have worked with the Reserve component throughout their career, but most have probably never had to command Army Reserve Soldiers.
Col. Jack Vantress, brigade commander for the 177th Armored Brigade, shared that he appreciated the value of the briefing to become a more effective commander in his current role.
“This is a great opportunity interacting with the 85th Support Command, as an active component officer. I have served with a reserve component, U.S. Army Reserve, throughout my career, but I never actually had to manage the specific aspects as it pertains to personnel and funding issues, those things that make the U.S. Army Reserve run,” said Vantress. “So this is a great opportunity to interact with the staff, and educate us so we know how to better support our Reserve component units.”
There are currently nine active duty brigades that command active and reserve component battalions within the First Army formation, and they exist all throughout the continental United States and Puerto Rico. Additionally, there are also Army Reserve support staffs built into the brigades called brigade support elements. Their role bridges the gap between the active and reserve components within each brigade. They provide insight to the command team to support the Army Reserve Soldier’s needs in order to execute ongoing missions.
“This is constantly changing and evolving,” said Maj. John Degeest, BSE officer-in-charge for the 174th AR BDE. “As they redefine it, I get the knowledge of what my brigade and battalions get so we are all on the same page, and have a continuity at the end of the day.”
“As we continue to work multi-component, we will always go to war with our active component, National Guard and Reserve component brethren,” said Belanger. “So we have to be able to understand and make sure that we are united in our direction, our effort and in our ability to achieve the best capability possible to meet the commander’s intent.”