Fort McCoy News December 12, 2014

First Army mission change requires 'Bold Shift'

First Army Public Affairs

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. — Last year, the Army directed First Army to shift its primary training mission focus from post-mobilization training support of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve to pre-mobilization training support.

This year, First Army is implementing an ambitious plan to accomplish that change of mission while maintaining its capability to provide post-mobilization collective training support to reserve-component forces that are still deploying to ongoing missions around the world.

Photo for Bold Shift article
Capt. Travis Stellfox (right), an observer coach/trainer (OC/T) with 1-310th Infantry Battalion, 181st Infantry Brigade, Division West, First Army, and native of Walpole, N.H., listens to the defensive strategy of a Soldier of the Iowa Army National Guard's Company A, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, during the Exportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Fort McCoy in August 2014. First Army supported the three-week exercise with nearly 200 OC/Ts.
Photo by Master Sgt. Gail Braymen

Pre-mobilization training focuses on long-term, home-station unit training for troops not preparing to deploy to an identified contingency operation; post-mobilization training focuses on unit collective training to prepare forces that have been identified to deploy to a named contingency operation.

Major reasons for the mission change are the implementation of Army Total Force Policy (ATFP) and lessons learned from the Army's warfighting experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The Army has been fighting our wars for the past 13 years as a multicomponent force," said Lt. Gen. Michael S. Tucker, First Army commander. "The Secretary of the Army wants to continue leveraging and sustaining the unique capabilities of all three components."

Army Secretary John M. McHugh's intent when he wrote the ATFP in 2012 was to ensure the active and reserve components continue to integrate pre-mobilization collective training and do not return to "stovepipes," said Tucker.

"We can't allow that. We have to train as we go to combat and we go to combat as a multicomponent force."

Another reason for First Army's mission change, said Tucker, dates back to 1993, when Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requiring the Army to create an active-component force focused on assisting and training the reserve components to achieve much higher levels of readiness.

"The intent of the NDAA was to shape pre-mobilization so as to lessen the time it takes for post-mobilization," said Tucker.

From 1993 to October 2001, First Army successfully balanced pre- and post-mobilization reserve-component training support requirements. That balance significantly changed when large numbers of reserve-component forces were mobilized in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We have been focused exclusively on post-mobilization for the past ten-plus years," said Tucker. "We've had very little time to spend in the business of pre-mobilization training while mobilizing up to 90,000 reserve-component personnel a year, sustained."

In fiscal year 2014, First Army trained and mobilized more than 30,000 troops; the unit plans to reach a steady state of nearly 10,000 troops annually by 2017.

First Army's shift in mission focus is a major overhaul, prompting Tucker to label the planning and execution "Operation Bold Shift." The change will bring unique challenges, he said.

"The First Army staff had to do a total mission analysis of our organization," he said. "We quickly determined that the change in mission focus meant that many of our day-to-day duties and training processes changed and that our manning structure would not be able to meet the premobilization training demand."

While more than 76 percent of the combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) units in the Total Army Force reside in the reserve component, First Army only has 6 percent of its observer coach/trainer (OC/T) support in CS or CSS functions.

"We had to go back and restructure First Army," Tucker said.

Changing the manning structure of a large, geographically dispersed organization such as First Army in less than 24 months is not a simple task, according to Tucker. "The biggest challenge will be managing our Soldiers' movements, with their different skill sets, into and out of our formations, while continuing to provide steady-state training support to reserve-component commanders."

During First Army's restructure, the unit must maintain its readiness levels and ability to train and mobilize reserve-component forces.

"We cannot take a knee," said Tucker. "We can't stop the training support we provide to the ARNG or USAR forces. We still have to provide the level of training support as required by the Army Total Force Plan and the 1993 NDAA."

The Army's directive to shift First Army's mission focus did not come with additional funding, presenting the unit with another challenge.

"We couldn't put a bill on the table," said Tucker. "We had to shift focus and restructure without cost to the Army. That's huge."
Bill payers for the restructure include major reductions of mission command structure in the headquarters at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., and the two division headquarters — Division West at Fort Hood, Texas, and Division East at Fort Meade, Md.

"We had no choice but to reduce our numbers," said Tucker. "We were told to reduce our two- and three-star headquarters by 50 percent. However, we decided to keep the OC/T and staff positions that were absolutely essential to perform our new mission."

The cost-effective nature of First Army's restructure makes this initiative unique, Tucker said, and the Army has embraced the unit's plan as a "best practice" for others to follow

By October 2016, First Army will convert 16 operations and training support brigades to nine larger and more-versatile brigades — six combined arms training brigades and three multifunctional training brigades.

Tucker foresees big benefits from the new First Army structure.

"We will provide an operations group-like capability, similar to those at the combat training centers, for all reserve-component pre-mobilization training," he said.

Also, the use of combat simulations in training exercises is projected to increase with the addition of a Planning and Exercise team to each training brigade's personnel structure. "We will have personnel who are professional exercise planners, scenario designers and wargamers at each brigade headquarters," said Tucker.

"There is a lot of detailed orchestration involved in creating a simulations-driven training scenario," he said. "We will have experts who will link together a live, virtual, constructive and gaming exercise for the reserve-component unit leaders and then facilitate its conduct."

The most important benefits of First Army's restructure, according to Tucker, are that it supports the Army Total Force Policy and will increase reserve-component readiness while integrating active- and reserve-component training.

In December 2013, U.S. Army Forces Command designated First Army as coordinating authority to implement FORSCOM interim guidance on ATFP to ensure large training events, with large training formations, were integrated with both active and reserve components participating.

"First Army plays an executing agent role as a trainer of (ATFP) standards," said Gen. Mark A. Milley, FORSCOM commander, during a recent panel discussion at the Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington, D.C.

"Bold Shift is the cornerstone of ATFP," Tucker said.

"Bold Shift supports the sustainment of our reserve components as an operational reserve. It focuses on maintaining readiness through structured, integrated training with the active component," Tucker explained. "One of the critical goals of ATFP and Bold Shift is to strengthen partnerships and remove cultural barriers between the active component, the reserve component and First Army trainers."

Paul D. Patrick, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs (Readiness, Training and Mobilization), endorsed First Army's restructure initiative during a panel discussion at the recent Association of the United States Army conference.

"The advantages of First Army's partnering and engagement with the Army National Guard and Army Reserves in pre-mobilization assessment, training plan development and post-mobilization training ... are well documented," Patrick said. First Army's focus on integrated training support has brought the level of Total Force integration to unprecedented heights, he added.

Once First Army's restructure is complete, Tucker said, the unit will be the Army's total collective training integrator.

"I see First Army as the operations group for reserve-component pre-mobilization training," he said. "The reserve-component unit commanders will provide us their training objectives, and we will give them a training scenario. Once the scenario is approved by the reserve-component commander, we will schedule the training resources, develop the exercise and execute to standard."

"All the Army National Guard and Army Reserve commanders will have to do is show up," Tucker said. "And that is what we want them to do: show up and command their units."

(The 181st Infantry Brigade at Fort McCoy is aligned under First Army Division West. An article in an upcoming issue of The Real McCoy will address the impact of the Bold Shift on the 181st.)