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NEWS | Jan. 31, 2016

Active, Guard, Reserve leaders sign landmark charter

By Master Sgt. Kap Kim 10th Mountain Division

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Jan. 28, 2016) -- As a part of the Army Total Force Policy implementation, representatives from Reserve and National Guard units throughout the region gathered Jan. 22 at Fort Drum to sign a landmark charter during the Northeast Regional Partnership meeting.

The program will pair active Army units from Fort Drum with similar National Guard and Reserve units throughout New York, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Vermont and Virginia, to promote informal leader development, share training opportunities, develop staff functionality and communicate lessons learned. 

Brig. Gen. Paul Bontrager, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum acting senior commander, and eight representatives signed a charter that officially began the ATFP process.

Several of the representatives from the National Guard and Reserve units throughout the Northeast have had relationships for years in both training exercises and through recent national disasters. 

The signing officially marked the beginning of the different components' collaboration opportunities, from large-scale unit training exercises to individual exchanges. Commanders are encouraged to look for opportunities to train together either at home station or during annual training events. 

According to the U.S. Army Forces Command directive, each unit will fund its own participation under the charter agreement meant to reduce fiscal costs through deliberate planning processes and to seek low-cost, high-yield events to participate in such as leader exchanges, quarterly training briefings and after action reviews.

"I think it's the road ahead in a time when there will be less and less resources, and it's important to capitalize every opportunity to squeeze the most training and the most readiness out of our program dollars," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff, the adjutant general for New Jersey. 

New Jersey National Guard units such as the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team have been partnered with units from New York's 42nd Infantry Division for years before the Army Total Force Policy. Their partnership with the 10th Mountain Division is the "next logical step," said Cunniff. 

"It's directed, but it's something that -- before (it) became codified -- that we were doing all along. So for us, we have, I believe, set the gold standard for the rest of the country -- the rest of the Army to follow," said Maj. Gen. Harry Miller Jr., 42nd Infantry Division commander. 

"It's all about readiness, and it's all about leveraging total force capabilities that reside in the active as well as the Guard and Reserve components in really bringing their total team together in 'one team, one fight,'" Miller added. 

Units from the 42nd Infantry Division have trained with units through the Northeast region and have implemented the ATFP, yet it's "grown exponentially," according to Miller, since its first signing. Last May, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey L. Bannister, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, traveled to Vermont and signed the first charter agreement. Then, only three other original members -- 42nd Infantry Division and the adjutant generals of New York and New Jersey -- signed. 

Going forward, the Northeast Regional Partnership working group will meet semi-annually to continue its charter agreements, and the integrated component units will ramp up for training and other opportunities, but what Bontrager envisions will be the greatest value to future conferences will be the "relationships" it will form and strengthen. 

"While it's good information to hear about each unit, its location and the makeup of each unit, the true value is the people; this is a people business -- always has been -- always will be," Bontrager said. "Building and nurturing the relationships is the biggest value of this."

He added that much of the responsibility of strengthening the relationships will fall on Fort Drum's Mission Support Element since the active-component Soldiers will rotate out, whereas the National Guard Soldiers may not.

"As you know, the MSE is so important to the (10th Mountain) Division," said Bontrager of the Fort Drum civilian workforce. "They'll make sure that people like me and others who are here part-time will revise the significance of the (Northeast Regional Partnership) and treat it with the proper focus -- proper priority."