The commanding general of First Army, Lt. Gen. Michael Tucker, shared his thoughts on the training and readiness of the National Guard and Reserve, and his plan to improve their capabilities and mobilization readiness in an interview with ArmyTimes.com. One of his biggest gripes - 39 days of training a year are not enough for an "operational reserve" force!
If both the National Guard and Reserve are going to be a true "operational reserve", Gen. Tucker said, "we’re going to have to give them more days to train.” To that end, First Army has put into motion "Bold Shift" - a shift in focus from training at mobilization stations to home-station training. According to Gen. Tucker, during the height of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, First Army was training over 90,000 soldiers at 20 mobilization stations across the country. Today, First Army trains about 30,000 soldiers at two mobilization stations - giving them the ability to try and shape pre-mobilization training to reduce post-mobilization time.
In order to accomplish this change, First Army is going to do a large-scale restructuring of its forces. First, First Army will be bringing in a lot more trainer/observer soldiers, whose job it will be to support the Guard and Reserve soldiers during their training. According to Gen. Tucker, these soldiers will go from making up 36 percent of the First Army forces to about 90 percent. Additionally, First Army will be upping the number of soldiers in combat support and combat support services specialties, since about 75 percent of Reserve and Guard units - but only 10 percent of First Army's trainers - are in those specialties. All these changes should be accomplished without adding any additional soldiers to command, since First Army will be reducing its 2- and 3-star command headquarters by 50 percent. This entire process is expected to be finished by the end of fiscal-year 2016.
These additional personnel will help First Army better prepare and plan training exercises to make sure the Reserve and Guard units and their commanders can focus on their training. These personnel will also provide better debrief and after-action reports, to give the training units better feedback on their performance. This improved readiness and training will become more important as the active-duty Army shrinks and the National Guard and Reserve must pick up some of the slack.