Maj. Gen. Michael Tucker (Army)
First Army will undergo “unprecedented” changes in the coming years as it shifts its focus, revamps its personnel and streamlines the way it trains National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers for deployment, the new commanding general told Army Times.
“We are facing unprecedented changes over the next two to three years in First Army,” said Lt. Gen. Michael Tucker, who took command in August. “We have been focusing on the war for 10 years, and the Guard and Reserve have been training, but they haven’t been training together. This is a huge integration effort.”
For the past 12 years, First Army, which is tasked with training reserve-component troops for war, has focused on post-mobilization training, taking on Guard and Reserve units just before they deploy overseas.
“The demand signal was so great that we actually shifted our focus to nothing but post-mobilization training,” Tucker said.
First Army will nowonce again look at training at home stations across the country, Tucker said.
“We’ll provide support to the reserve-component commander at the point of need,” he said. “We’ll come to your armory, we’ll come to your battle assembly, we’ll come to your joint force headquarters. We’ll sit down with your leadership. We’ll help plan your exercise, and we’ll help you write the scenarios. You tell us what your objectives are, and we’ll help you with those things.”
First Army and its cadre of observers and controllers — most of whom are noncommissioned officers and officers — also will support large exercises such as the Reserve’s Warrior Exercises and Combat Support Training Exercises, or the Guard’s eXportable Combat Training Capability, a training program that uses live, virtual and constructive training environments to provide brigade-size training in 21 days.
They also will synchronize training schedules so Guard and Reserve units have the opportunity to train with active-duty forces, Tucker said.
“We’ll help align units and come support you,” he said. “We’re the Army’s multicomponent integrated collective training enablers. We go out and ensure if you’re going to conduct this exercise at Fort McCoy, [Wis.,] there’s an active-component unit exercising with you, and the same with active-component exercises. We’ll reach into the reserve components to get units to participate with the active component.”
This shift in focus will build better partnerships between First Army and the Guard and Reserve, especially as they have 20 major exercises planned for this year, Tucker said.
First Army also will maintain its ability to train Guard and Reserve units at the mobilization stations because that mission has not ended, Tucker said.
“We’ll probably mobilize about 30,000 [soldiers] next year,” he said. “It’ll drop to about 20,000 in 2015, and we think steady state will be 10,000 or 15,000. We train them, we mobilize them, we deploy them, we redeploy them, and we demobilize them.”
Plans for First Army include a manning structure review and brigade reorganization. Tucker plans to go from 16 brigades to nine, reorganizing them to look like the operations groups that run the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.
When the reorganization is done, there will be six will be combined-arms training brigades and three will be functional/multifunctional training brigades, Tucker said.