JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. –
The U.S. Army Reserve’s 99th Readiness Division strengthened its ability to support mass mobilizations and deployments during its Staff Exercise this summer.
The 99th RD’s mission during this year’s exercise was to assess and validate the staff’s ability to support the Mobilization Force Generation Installation operations within the division’s area of responsibility, deploy ready forces and equipment into theatre, and support Large Scale Mobilization Operations.
“This year, our commanding general wanted us to do an exercise based on LSMO, asking, ‘How could we as a Readiness Division support the units in our footprint - our area of responsibility - as they are getting deployed?’” said Col. John Wildermann, G3/5/7 Operations, Plans and Training, 99th RD.
Wildermann said there were many questions, such as, “Whenever units in our footprint get notified of deployment, what can we do to help, whether it’s vehicle maintenance or personnel readiness; can we send out a team to help them?”
The STAFFEX had a wide range of service members educating themselves on mobilization support operations and its requirements.
“Previously, we’ve had the leaders and directors talking about large-scale mobilization, but I don’t think we’ve gotten it down as far into the organization as we did on this event, bringing the TPU Soldiers into the fold and talking about this topic so that they can learn about it,” Wildermann said.
“One of our biggest concerns is: As the military technicians get deployed with their units, how does that effect our staffing, whether they’re mechanics or they’re people in Reserve Personnel Action Centers?” Wildermann noted. “As they leave on a deployment, then we have less capacity to service the remaining units that are still in the footprint.”
Each of the four Readiness Divisions encompass about a quarter of the continental United States, but square footage-wise, they’re not evenly divided.
“We all have about 45,000 Army Reserve Soldiers in our area of responsibility,” said Wildermann of the four Readiness Divisions. “Ours is physically the smallest from Virginia to Maine - 13 states plus Washington D.C.”
Col. Benjamin Owen, deputy G3/5/7 Operations, Plans and Training for the 88th Readiness Division, came as an observer of the 99th’s STAFFEX. The 99th’s deputy G3 had gone to observe the 88th RD’s similar STAFFEX conducted previously at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
The consensus at this year’s exercise was that the 99th RD’s 13-state region has unique characteristics compared to the other three Army Reserve Readiness Divisions.
“It’s different. When you look at the 99th, we’re talking smaller footprint but much more densely populated. The population centers like New York City, Washington D.C., the National Capital Region, then Baltimore, Boston, and Philadelphia are very different, whereas the 88th has a 19-state region that starts as far east as Ohio and goes as far west as Oregon and Washington state,” said Owen.
“We have a ton of geographic area, but we don’t have nearly the population density of the 99th,” Owen further explained. “Obviously, a lot of our network system, our transportation, is nice and open and everything is very big and spread out, as opposed to the northeast here where everything is super compact.”
Robert Staab, Emergency Management specialist at Army Reserve Command G33 Homeland Operations, attended the STAFFEX to support and assess the 99th RD.
“The environment for this area feels different,” said Staab of the 99th’s northeast region. “So, everything within your mission changes for the purposes of this exercise, which is large-scale mobilization operations in support of regional conflict, which encompasses the entirety of your area of operations.”
“You have all the bases in Virginia, all the bases in the mid-Atlantic states, the bases in the northeast - you have Fort Drum, you have all those force-generating installations combined with the mission of the 99th RD in supporting the mobilization of force-sharing installations - the MFGIs,” said Staab.
The 99th RD has more plans to further a more realistic large-scale mobilization support training in a joint effort for next year.
“It's pretty likely that next year’s STAFFEX will probably be a U.S. Army Reserve Command STAFFEX combined with the 88th and 99th at the same time,” said Wildermann. “That way, it’s a multi-tier exercise where USARC tasks something and they actually have a live audience in us to answer it, and we have a live higher headquarters.”
According to Wildermann, USARC would stay at Fort Liberty, North Carolina, while the 99th and 88th would stay at their headquarters.
“In this year’s exercise we had to kind of make up what USARC would say to answer a question during training,” Wildermann explained. “The 2024 STAFFEX would be multi-echelon, meaning that it’s at the two-star headquarters and the three-star headquarters at the same time.”
“There were two things for me that were really prevalent in this exercise. First, it’s that there are different ways to approach a problem and still solve it. How we analyze or approach the problem and how we’re putting assets in place to solve those problems is different. And that’s OK,” said Owen.
“The second thing is to make sure about the communication, because it’s so key; just making sure that we’re not doing that in a silo, but that we’re doing the planning and communication so that we’re informing the staff through the entire process.”
“The staff is doing a very good job on focusing on the idea that, ‘We’re going to have to be able to maintain all of our steady-state requirements, all of the things the 99th RD has to do day-to-day that defines its mission, plus these requirements of LSMO,’” Staab said. “What they’re doing is helping the Department of Defense provide answers across the board.”