U.S. Army Central is reorganizing its headquarters even as it continues to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and build relationships with partners in the region.
"Every single day, we're providing combat and materiel support to Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Freedom Sentinel," Lt. Gen. Michael Garrett, the commanding general of ARCENT, told Army Times Managing Editor Michelle Tan. "Every single day, we engage with our 18 partner nations."
ARCENT, which has its headquarters at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, as well as a headquarters element in Kuwait, also is responsible for providing basic life support such as water, power, communications and medical care for more than 20,000 service members, civilians and contractors across the U.S. Central Command area of operations, he said.
That is why the command is working to become more efficient, Garrett said.
In the lead-up to the Association of the United States Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Garrett discussed how ARCENT is transitioning.
Q. Could you give us a quick update on what your soldiers have been doing?
A. We've been involved in this current fight from the very beginning, with an initial deployment to Saudi Arabia in 1990. We've had a headquarters forward in theater for the last 26 years. A lot of people don't realize what we do on a daily basis.
Q. How is ARCENT supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan?
A. As the coalition forces land component command, the theater Army for Central Command, we have set-the-theater responsibilities. These are things the Army does in support of the combatant commanders, in this case Central Command.
We provide base logistics, we provide communication, we provide medical. Those are theater responsibilities that we, as the Army, have by statute, and we provide those in many cases to other services, that's what we provide in support of the joint force.
Q. What else does your command do?
A. We also conduct Operation Spartan Shield, the operation that is focused on maintaining a presence in theater. It allows us to execute our contingency plans if something happens this evening, but it also allows us to engage with our partners as well.
We have an armored brigade combat team, a combat aviation brigade, an air defense brigade, [and] logistical commands.
Our challenge is that we do have them for a specific mission, but we're also in support of daily combat operations that take priority.
For us, it's balancing our day-to-day priority requirements to support the fight with our other requirements.
The Army has provided sufficient forces for us. It's just managing those forces while maintaining agility and capability for the combatant commander. It is something I manage very, very closely.
Q. You mentioned your partners. How are you engaging with them?
A. Our partnerships are very, very important. At the base of everything we do, and our ability to effectively partner against a common enemy, is a trust that we have between one another. It's more than a trite phrase. You can surge equipment, but you cannot surge trust. You have to build that every day.
Q. What are your partners looking or asking for from the Army?
A. We have 18 major exercises we do every year, and 17 countries participate in those.
But our partners are also very interested in specific capabilities. Many of the countries in the region have provided forces in support of current operations, so they are seeing themselves more clearly than they have, and they have been very, very specific.
Everything from planning to logistical support to medical support to being more efficient with their aviation. These are the kinds of things our partners are asking for.
Q. In addition to the 18 major exercises, do your soldiers also conduct more one-on-one engagements with partner armies?
A. We have hundreds of smaller engagements, everything from combat casualty care to basic combat lifesaver support. It ranges from individual skills to high-level collective training tasks.
Q. Are there any exercises you'd like to highlight?
A. One of the big training exercises is Eager Lion. It's an exercise that we conduct in Jordan. We just did an exercise here in South Carolina called Inspired Gambit. It's an annual exercise, and this one is with the Pakistani army. It's not a huge operation, but the fact that we have the Pakistanis here in South Carolina working with them on some tasks, Pakistan is a key regional partner.
Q. Do you anticipate any changes or growth in your exercises in the coming year?
A. We're constantly refining the developing our exercises as we get a better sense of what our partners need and require.
Q. What challenges do you face?
A. Army Central is in a constant state of transition. Every single day, if you think about it, there's somebody transitioning into or out of theater, whether it be individual soldiers or units.
Inside of our headquarters, we're transitioning to align ourselves with the other Army service component commands. That's a big transition for us [as] we're thinking our way through this transition to a new structure for our headquarters.
Q. What kind of reorganization are you looking at for ARCENT headquarters?
A. We've been [in theater] for 26 years, and ARCENT has had its headquarters expand and contract to meet mission requirements. We're contracting right now to meet what we believe the current requirements are.
The structure cuts the headquarters by a little more than half, but it puts additional structure back in. For instance, we'll have a National Guard division [headquarters] forward in Kuwait, and we've never had a division forward in Kuwait.
We spend a lot of time identifying the risks associated with this, but I think we've done a pretty good job of identifying ways to mitigate those risks.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
A. We've got folks, every single day, both soldiers and civilians, who are doing very, very hard work, without fanfare, supporting folks in combat.
I think that what we have today certainly meets our requirements, and the big thing for us is managing transitions and anticipating requirements because we may, and I know it's become a trite phrase, but we may have to be prepared to fight tonight, and we are.
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.