Army Reserve Sustainment Command adapts to COVID-19 by conducting virtual battle assembly

By Maj. Michael Nastari | Army Reserve Sustainment Command | May 21, 2020

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. —

Fall in. Receive the report. Those are voice commands that Soldiers hear during battle assemblies.

Battle assembly refers to an Army Reserve Soldier’s military duty that occurs one weekend per month and focuses on personnel/medical readiness, tactics and physical fitness. The entire unit comes together from all over the country for these in-person events.

Now battle assemblies for the Army Reserve Sustainment Command have gone virtual. Soldiers are hearing the new commands of log in, conduct physical training with 6 feet of social distance and send your training certificates to ensure pay is processed.

Due to the Department of Defense COVID-19 travel restrictions, which are in place through June 30, 2020, Army Reserve Soldiers are not allowed to travel farther than 50 miles from their residence.

The ARSC virtual battle assembly was conducted May 14-17 with more than 100 Soldiers in attendance. This is the first time a virtual battle assembly was conducted since the inception of the unit. Soldiers joined their Alabama-based unit via computers and phones from as far away as California and Maryland.

“The primary purpose of the Virtual Battle Assembly is allowing unit commanders and Soldiers to sustain readiness with online and distance training opportunities and maintain unit connectivity throughout this COVID-19 emergency. Additionally, it provides our Soldiers with their regular pay and retirement benefits that they and their families look forward too,” said Brig. Gen. Donald Absher, the ARSC commanding general.

One of the first items of the virtual battle assembly was to announce ARSC’s newly promoted Soldiers.

Soldiers joining the collaborative internet site from their home offices and living rooms heard the voice of 1st Sgt. Jonathan Lowery announce: “Sgt. Maj. Monica Terry and Staff Sgt. Katavia Parker were recently promoted. Sgt. Ethan Taylor completed his reclassification training to an Information Technology Specialist. Let’s all recognize their achievements.” Some Soldiers gave their congratulations through their device’s microphone while other Soldiers typed their well-wishes into the chat box.

Officers and noncommissioned officers conducted professional development courses via conference calls.

Officers read and critically reviewed the article "Five Ways the U.S. Military Will Change After the Pandemic," written by David Barno and Nora Bensahel. They then reflected on their service within the Army Reserve and applied their experience to the potential future of the force after the pandemic.

“Stay diligent as this pandemic is still a very real threat across our country. We need to keep our Soldiers and families informed and ensure all the necessary precautions are being followed to get through this as safely as possible,” said Absher.

The Contracting Operational Readiness Exercise mid-planning workshop was conducted virtually for the training and validation event to be held in the fall of 2020. CORE is the validation exercise ARSC units participate in for upcoming deployments and to increase Soldier readiness. During this exercise, Soldiers receive scenario-based training in contracting, acquisitions and the Military Decision Making Process. As the ARSC plans for CORE, they are having to implement social distance and other Centers for Disease Control recommendations.

Even though the ARSC virtual battle assembly was a huge success, it came with a set of unique challenges. These included: connectivity issues, training by slide-show presentations compared to in-person interaction and the increased time invested to ensure accurate accountability. However, within these times of uncertainty the ARSC Soldiers excelled.

“Our entire team stepped up to the plate during the increased operations tempo. What we experienced was a collaborative and unified effort to accomplish the mission from the Command Group to the staff and echelons below,” said Lt. Col. Brian Slaughter, ARSC chief of staff.

The ARSC is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, with subordinate units located across the United States. The command specializes in logistics, contracting and acquisitions.