All three Army components must continue to build soldier and unit readiness in the face of a volatile, complex and ambiguous world, the commander of U.S. Army Forces Command said Monday.
"Some may ask, why all the emphasis on readiness? And why all the emphasis to decrease post-mobilization time for the Army National Guard and United States Army Reserve?" Gen. Robert Abrams said. "Because contrary to some people's opinion, we are not in an inter-war period."
The Army currently rotates three armored brigade combat teams to Europe, Korea and Southwest Asia for nine months at a time. It is committed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, and throughout the Pacific.
And it also must be surge-ready, said Abrams, who spoke Monday at the Guard and Reserve breakfast during the Association of the United States Army annual meeting.
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"We need to be ready to surge to support commander war plan requirements to defeat one of our near-peer competitors, like Russia or China or North Korea or Iran," he said. "We have to defeat that one while denying the objective of another near-peer threat, while protecting the homeland, and continuing our counter-terrorism missions around the world."
In order to meet all those requirements, the active Army "cannot do it alone," Abrams said.
"It takes all 980,000 of us," he said. "Now, possibly more than ever, the readiness of the Guard and Reserve is crucial."
While there's still work to be done, especially as the Army continues to rebuild its core warfighting skills after 15 years of counter-insurgency operations, there already are signs of progress, Abrams said.
Last year, there were zero Army National Guard division headquarters deployed, he said.
Today, the 36th Infantry Division headquarters from the Texas Army National Guard is four months into its deployment to Afghanistan, becoming the first Guard division headquarters to assume authority for a regional command headquarters there since the start of the war, Abrams said.
In Jordan, the 29th Infantry Division headquarters, from Virginia and Maryland, assumed command of the military's joint operations center there to support Operation Inherent Resolve, Abrams said. In December, the division also will assume responsibility for a "brand-new requirement" for a division headquarters to be fully employed in Kuwait to support U.S. Army Central and Operation Spartan Shield, he said.
"Both the 36th and 29th Infantry Divisions are filling critical roles in support of our combatant commanders," Abrams said.
They also are providing key leadership and development opportunities for soldiers, he said.
Another effort is the Associated Units pilot program, which pairs active Army units with those in the Guard and Reserve.
The partnerships will mean "more training days, exchange of key personnel and oversight of training by the gaining headquarters," Abrams said.
"All of that translates into increased readiness," he said. "It'll also increase cross-component integration."
The Army must continue to build on its total force, Abrams said.
"We need to find innovative ways to train and to master the fundamentals and best utilize our most precious resource, and that's time," he said. "We need to capitalize on our unique strengths and continue to integrate the outstanding units of the National Guard and Army Reserve with the Regular Army."
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.