FORT EUSTIS, Va. – (March 22, 2017) – Senior leaders from across the active, Guard and Reserve components joined U.S. Army Forces Command and U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command to discuss the future of the Army during a senior leader summit March 21 and 22 on Fort Eustis, Virginia.
Now in its second year, the goal of the FORSCOM-TRADOC Summit is to generate discussion and collaboration on how the commands can better work together.
“This summit provides us with the ability to shape the Army as it’s changing,” said Gen. David Perkins, TRADOC commanding general. “What we talk about today is how do we get there, and how do we set ourselves up for the future?”
Perkins opened the summit by providing an overview of the command, comparing how TRADOC builds the Army to building a car: First comes the design of the car; then acquiring the materials; next is building the car; and finally, making any needed improvements to the vehicle.
“Once we get the car to a certain point, we hand it to Forces Command, and the final customer is the combatant commander, who will drive the car,” he said, adding that if any improvements need to be made, the car is given back to the manufacturer, or TRADOC.
“We design the Army, we acquire the Army, we build the Army and we continue to improve the Army,” Perkins explained. “FORSCOM makes ready the Army, and [Army Materiel Command] sustains the Army.”
One of the challenges TRADOC faces is the need to increase training capacity as the Army increases. Although auto makers can increase the size of their factories, the Army solution may not be as easy.
“How do we increase the factory if TRADOC is the factory of the Army?” Perkins asked.
In some military occupational specialties, the advanced individual training is currently running 24 hours a day to meet the demand.
“We are running AIT in overdrive,” Perkins said.
Gen. Robert Abrams, FORSCOM commanding general, also acknowledged the high operations tempo of the force, which creates a number of challenges in maintaining readiness.
“We are busier now than we were at the height of the surge – because we’re globally engaged,” Abrams said. “But we can’t do it alone; it requires teamwork across the Army to pull this off.”
One example of this teamwork is through the National Guard.
“Two years ago, there was no inkling of Guard divisions,” Abrams said. “Today, we have two, and we’re training to prepare them for operational deployment.”
But even with the high tempo, Abrams said readiness is improving in personnel, equipment and training, noting the importance of training.
“It’s going to take time to train to standard, but it’s the exact right thing to do,” he said. “We are making a ton of progress.”
Throughout the summit, commanders – which also included all divisions and corps leaders – discussed a number of topics critical to the Army, including readiness, combat training centers, Multi-Domain Battle, sustaining mission command, informing the force of the future, the operational environment and increasing end strength.
At the same time, command sergeants major from across the total Army met separately to work through improvements in four main areas: schools, talent management, fitness and sponsorship.
This summit provides a “great discussion about how we help our Army,” said Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, TRADOC’s senior enlisted leader.
Davenport said in order to affect lasting change throughout the Army, the changes they discussed would be assigned to respective senior enlisted leaders.
One of the areas Davenport asked for the group’s help with was in understanding not only the challenges of accessing 6,000 new Soldiers, but also in retaining an additional 9,000 Soldiers.
But even as the Army increases, the TRADOC command sergeant major emphasized that standards are critical and will continue to be enforced.
“Oftentimes, what I get hit with is that we have no standards,” Davenport said. “We have standards to get into the Army, and we have phases within the Army that you must comply with before you move on … standards-based progression, or you go back, or you separate from our Army.”
As a result of these standards, TRADOC provides FORSCOM with Soldiers who have passed the Army standard for physical fitness, can shoot rifles and have demonstrated competencies in in Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills as well as being able to meet the high physical demands required by the career management field.
“There are standards and there are processes in place, and you have to meet the standards to move on,” he said.
Like TRADOC, FORSCOM was also looking for ways to work together to improve the force.
“We’re here to try to make things better,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Schroeder, FORSCOM’s senior enlisted leader, as he stressed the importance of talent management and sponsorship.
“When you bought a new car, did you check the oil before you drove it off the lot?” Schroeder asked. “Sponsorship is like buying a house. When you buy a house, you do a home inspection. We have to look at our sponsoring troopers more like purchasing a house than buying a car.”
Another area for improvement is “buying time” for Solders. Schroeder pointed out another challenge is that Soldiers aren’t getting a lot of “head-on-pillow” time, or time spent at home, because of the amount of time required for deployments and training.
“We’re trying to find some time for them because that does affect retention and families,” he said, which in turn, affects the entire Army.
“We’re pretty busy – I know everybody’s busy, but how busy they are has an effect on all of us, and that includes TRADOC.”
The next summit will be held at FORSCOM headquarters in spring 2018.