Placing the Soldier First

By Cpt. Matthew Cline | 377th Theater Sustainment Command | Aug. 9, 2019

NAS JRB NEW ORLEANS, La. —

In a packed auditorium at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, Army senior leaders from across the country murmured their greetings as they made their way to their seats. Ranging in rank from Brigadier General to Command Sergeant Major, the Soldiers assembled from across the 377th Theater Sustainment Command footprint to hear the initial guidance of their new commander, Maj. Gen. Gregory Mosser. Within moments of his entry, the tone of his speech was set.

“Our adversaries have adapted and they have studied what we do and they are looking for vulnerabilities,” he said shortly after his introduction. “They’re going to try to instigate something.”

Mosser was referring to the growing threat of the United States’ increasingly competitive military opponents in China and Russia. The Army Reserve has responded to the strengthened capabilities of these two countries in part by establishing the concept of ‘Ready Force X,’ a quick-strike component that is capable of deploying within days of receiving the order to combat zones throughout the world. The concept was introduced in 2016 and has prompted a cultural paradigm shift across the Army Reserve.

That level of efficiency comes at a cost, one that has to date been paid by the Ready Force X Soldiers and their families through the increased training and condensed mobilization timeframes required of a given mission. Lt. Gen. Charles Luckey, the Commanding General of the United States Army Reserve, has stressed the importance of maintaining the lethality and readiness of the Ready Force X component without sacrificing the welfare of the Soldiers who make it happen.

“We need to work together as leaders to alleviate the tension between being ready enough to be relevant, but not so ready that our Soldiers can’t maintain good, meaningful civilian jobs and healthy, sustaining family lives,” he said. “This is about balancing risk. It’s what leaders do.”

To that end, Mosser outlined a plan that allowed more autonomy for his subordinate commanders to define what is necessary to make the mission successful while maintaining Soldier well-being and morale. He emphasized to his commanders his support of their decisions to balance the home and work relationships of their troops.

“You need to keep these good Soldiers,” he said to the assembly. “If there are sacrifices that need to be made in that process, you have a lot of latitude as commanders.”

His plan also outlined a strategy that focused on the Soldier as the key element to mission success, emphasizing that no amount of collective training will enable a mission when Soldiers are not prepared to deploy at the individual level.  He communicated to all of the non-commissioned officers present that the success or failure of this plan rests with their efforts.

Mosser’s non-commissioned officer in charge, Command Sergeant Major Lawrence Arnold, reiterated just how important their responsibility was.

“Balancing the needs of the Army Reserve with family and meaningful employment isn’t easy,” Arnold said. “Individual responsibility is key here and we as leaders have to inspire the ones who lack the self-discipline to do so by making them realize their importance in our Army’s ability to defend this nation.”

In the long term, Mosser highlighted recruiting as the main tool in ensuring the Army Reserve maintains its fighting efficiency. In order to balance the competing needs of domestic missions, planned international deployments and the quick-response mobilizations of the Ready Force X units, commands across the Army Reserve frequently have to outsource Soldiers from other units around the country who have specific skill sets needed for a given mission. This concept is known as aggregation, and allows understrength units to gain critical expertise or manning power in a short time. For Mosser, it is a temporary fix.

“Aggregation is the only way that we can meet the need to be relevant in the short term, but it’s not the preferred method,” he said. “The better long term solution is recruiting.”

Mosser’s end state was focused and simple, and was underscored throughout his address to the troops. “We have to get a capable force to the right place at the necessary speed,” he said.

As the senior leaders began to make their way out of the auditorium after the conclusion of his speech, there was little doubt that all in attendance had a clear understanding of the way ahead.