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Total Force Policy highlights need for cross-component training

Arrowhead Brigade has taken lead in training alongside multiple National Guard and Reserve units

U.S. Army soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Inf. Reg., 3-2 SBCT participate in Total Force training at Fort Hunter Ligget, Calif., in June 2014. Courtesy photo

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Since the implementation of the Army's Total Force Policy in the early 1970s, the active U.S. Army has worked and trained closely with their counterparts in the U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard.

The 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, has been on the forefront of the Total Force concept as they regularly take part in training with soldiers from the Army Reserve as well as the Idaho, Minnesota and Washington State National Guard throughout the year.

In June, the Army's Total Force Policy brought the 3-2 SBCT "Arrowhead Brigade" together with the 100th Infantry "Purple Heart Battalion" on a simulated battlefield at Fort Hunter Liggett, Jolon, California, to train for future operations.

The experience provided troops from the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, with the opportunity to establish relationships and learn how the Guard does things in comparison to the active component, explained Capt. Silverio Gabriel, commander of Company B, 2-3 Inf. "We both learned from each other," he said.

Likewise, soldiers from the 209th Military Intelligence Company, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 3-2 SBCT, trained with Washington State National Guard soldiers. Their training provided both components with the opportunity to build proficiency with their equipment and practice team-level training exercises together. This developed confidence and teamwork between the WAARNG and 3-2 SBCT while executing realistic training.

Training between active duty and National Guard and Reserve is nothing new for the U.S. Army.

The Total Force Policy was set in motion during the Vietnam War. The end of peacetime conscription, coupled with America's withdrawal from Vietnam, forced the Department of the Army to reassess their military strengths and weaknesses.

According to the U.S. Army's website, "the Total Force Policy is important to the Army for two reasons: first, it will align the Army with Secretary of Defense Directive 1200.17, which requires the military services to manage their reserve components as an operational force. Secondly, it establishes policy for the integration of the Army's active component and reserve components as a Total Force."

At the heart of the policy is the simple premise that the Army will do its job with less, and that the Guard and Reserves will take a more direct role in national defense.

Total Force training, like that conducted by the Arrowhead Brigade, permits the National Guard and Reserve to improve their capacity to serve alongside active-duty counterparts in any contingency. It also provides Regular Army units, such as 3-2 SBCT, easier access to capabilities that are not always available outside of the Reserves and National Guard.

"They're able to provide subject matter experts ... (in areas) not organic to the unit," said Capt. Adrian Van Cleve, a brigade plans cell officer. "(For instance,) we have an engineer element here, but we don't have horizontal construction or dig assets - we have Sappers. So (the reservists) can provide those assets we don't have to dig in for the defense."

In addition to the enhanced training opportunities for the Army, Reserves and National Guard, the Total Force Policy benefits the American taxpayer by eliminating the need to conduct the same mission twice, explained Van Cleve. Put another way, it allows the Regular Army to train with their Reserve or National Guard brethren and eliminate the need for separate, costly training. Instead, all components conduct the same training at the same time, which saves American taxpayer's dollars.

"The way it would benefit the nation ... is the Guard or Reserves would learn how to improve their methods of planning and organizing their units, so when they're called upon they're not spending tax payer money unnecessarily, because they've had lessons learned from these rotations on how to better organize, how to better plan, how to better deploy their unit from home station," Van Cleve said.

"Since the early 1970s, the Total Force Policy has allowed the nation to meet its defense requirements by utilizing an all-volunteer military maintained at an acceptable cost to taxpayers," according to Michael Doubler's report, The National Guard and the Total Force Policy.

The Arrowhead Brigade knows that and, for that reason, has taken the lead in executing the Total Force Policy, which has allowed them to train alongside multiple National Guard and Reserve units.

"In the future what we would look to do is continue to do small-level engagements here at Joint Base Lewis-McChord," said Maj. Christopher Wehri, the operations officer for 1-14 Cav. Regt. "There are all sorts of ways to be creative in support of the Total Force Policy. I really think that's what the Army wants us to look at for future generations of officers and NCOs - don't become insulated from the rest of the force. What you need to do is reach out and interface with the Reserve and National Guard units, other active duty units, and do things together to maintain interoperability and understand each other's capabilities so that when it comes time for operations again we can act as a cohesive unit somewhere in the world."

Staff Sgt. Chris McCullough is with the 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs.

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