WASHINGTON — Soldiers are as ready as they’ve ever been for combat, but more readiness efforts are needed for them to sustain on future battlefields, said Gen. Michael Garrett, the commander of U.S. Army Forces Command.
To meet the Army’s modernization requirements, Soldiers have ramped up their training, to include more opportunities for National Guard and Reserve units to train and deploy, Gen. Garrett said at a panel discussion Oct. 14 during the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.
For instance, in the past three to four years, six of eight National Guard divisions have deployed in support of Operation Spartan Shield, a large-scale security mission in U.S. Central Command, he said in an Army Times article.
And of the roughly 175,000 Soldiers deployed today, he said, 26,000 are in the National Guard and Reserve.
The challenge of modernization is how to “prevent conflict, shape the environment, and win decisively in the current fight,” such as Spartan Shield, while concurrently knowing how to “ensure [Soldiers] are ready for the future fight,” Garrett said.
The Army’s vision, and how the service will do against great power competition, heavily relies on all the leadership at FORSCOM — the Army’s largest command that is responsible for over 750,000 Soldiers, he said.
“As we move toward 2022, resourcing priorities will begin to shift from building to sustaining readiness and modernizing the force toward the multi-domain operations-capable force by 2028,” Garrett said.
The Army’s vision for 2028, first announced last year by then-Army Secretary Mark Esper, rolled out as a planned effort for the Army to deploy, fight, and win decisively against any adversary in a joint, multi-domain, high-intensity conflict, whenever and wherever.
Today, more than a year after it was announced, the strategy focuses on building combat readiness and modernizing technology.
The Army intends to grow its total force by at least half a million by 2028, according to the vision, and plans to add thousands of additional Soldiers every year to strategically meet their end goal of a 500,000 strong active-duty force.
In addition to total force numbers, training exercises also play important roles to readiness, he said.
One upcoming exercise, Defender-Europe 20, is scheduled to be the largest deployment of U.S.-based forces to Europe in the last 25 years. The massive exercise is slated for next spring and will test Army units on operational and strategic readiness.
Once it kicks off, more than 37,000 allied and U.S. service members are expected to conduct training across 10 nations in Europe.
“Our plan is to use the Defender series to bring joint capabilities together,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, G-3/5/7 deputy chief of staff. “The bulk of that being Army land component capabilities so we can exercise strategic readiness challenges like mobilization, deployment, sustaining, and redeployment.”
At home, the Army has also continued to accommodate new readiness strategies, said retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, Center for National Defense director.
Combat training centers, like at Fort Irwin, California, where the Army has replicated urban counterinsurgency scenarios, has tested Soldiers and focused on preparing for fights with near-peer competitors.
“We must pivot to preparing for fights with our major competitors,” he said during the discussion. “We are now fully engaged in that process, but it cannot be achieved overnight.”
Those achievements occur over time, like in 2018, when only a third of the Army’s brigade combat teams could be deployed, on any given day, to support overseas operations.
However, today, “half of the Army’s BCTs have reached the top levels of readiness,” Spoehr said.
Readiness, according to Garrett, means every Army unit should be combat ready.
“You have to consider impacts of the Army total force when it comes to modernization,” Garrett said. “Under sustainable readiness, any unit regardless of the level of modernization can and should be prepared to deploy. That means our least modern formations must be interoperable with our most modern formations.”