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Soldiers #1 priority

Army secretary announces people as top focus going forward

National Guard soldiers with the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team conduct training in the Boise National Forest, Idaho, Oct. 3. 2020. Photo by Thomas Alvarez

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WASHINGTON - Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy announced Tuesday that "people" will now be the Army's top priority, as the force works to give junior leaders more time to build cohesive teams.

"As we took a closer look at ourselves over these past couple of months, we understand that the last 19 years of combat operations and global deterrence has come at a cost," McCarthy said during the opening ceremony of this year's Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.

"Just as we did with readiness, we must invest in people," followed by readiness and modernization, he added. "The time is now."

Army leadership will continue to put "people first" as they work to balance operational tempo requirements and make policy changes, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville.

Senior leaders released an action plan Tuesday that prioritizes people and teams, saying that people are the Army's greatest strength.

One critical change is the new Regionally Aligned Readiness and Modernization Model, or ReARMM, slated to be released in the next few months, leaders said. It aims to help leaders balance op tempo requirements with dedicated periods for mission, training and modernization.

More details on ReARMM are set to be discussed during a contemporary military forum Thursday from 2-2:45 p.m. Eastern Time at the annual meeting.

Army leaders are also working to determine the level of total Army readiness necessary to meet operational requirements, the plan read. They will then use this information to pursue options and hopefully reduce the Army's current cycle of heel-to-toe deployment rotations.

"We are taking a look at rotational deployments and working with the (combatant commanders) to see how we can accomplish the mission in innovative ways," McConville said.

The action plan will also include the reevaluation of combat training center, or CTC, rotations, McConville said. Army leaders look to further foundational readiness through training at the squad, platoon, and company levels.

"Our CTCs are the gold standard for preparing our organizations for large-scale ground combat operations, especially in this time of great power competition," McConville said, adding the Army must strive to balance its CTC rotations with other training opportunities.

Moving forward, the Army will consider a mix of multi-echelon training exercises such as command post exercises, tactical exercises without troops, and fire support coordination exercises, to train soldiers at the battalion and brigade levels, leaders announced in the plan.

"We will pursue options for the brigade combat training centers that are a mix of ‘in the box' organic battalions, command post exercises, and heavy and light rotations," McCarthy said. "These efforts will buy back time at home for our units to invest in their soldiers and families."

Additionally, leaders might waive a CTC rotation requirement for units scheduled to conduct a non-combat rotational deployment, but only if they can engage in similar collective training while deployed, the plan read.

"There is no intent to reduce the number of CTC rotations," McConville said. "We are discussing the prerequisites required to go to a CTC and how they fit into" the rotational-deployment model.

Wide range of missions

So far in 2020, the Army has responded to a wide range of missions, starting with a no-notice deployment of elements from the 82nd Airborne Division to the Middle East on New Year's Eve, McCarthy said.

Months later, the Army "faced a global pandemic on a scale that the world has not seen since the Spanish Influenza in 1918," he added.

The Army called up 45,000 active-duty, National Guard, and Reserve Soldiers to support a government-led response to COVID-19, while close to 180,000 soldiers were deployed to operations around the world. Simultaneously, the Army worked with industry partners to ensure its modernization timeline continued to be on track.

"As one crisis tapered, another one began. Following the murder of George Floyd, massive civil unrest that had been simmering across the country for decades reached a tipping point," McCarthy said.

In response, the Guard was activated to work with local, state, and federal officials to ensure the safety of citizens and those who exercised their constitutional rights to protest. As civil unrest grew, soldiers watched as peaceful protests turned violent, hijacked by outside actors, McCarthy said.

"Then, we were shocked to our conscience by the murder of our own, Spc. Vanessa Guillen," he added. "Her loss has been felt in our formations and across the nation at large.

"But through this sort of reckoning, we realized that some of the same barriers and threats still exist within our formation. We must be accountable, and we must act."

To reinforce a "people first" mentality, the Army is slated to publish new guidance on absent Soldiers to clarify actions when an individual fails to report for duty, leaders announced in the plan. Under it, the Army will consider them missing and take immediate action.

"This year, and its series of events, has hardened our resolve to create enduring change," McCarthy said. "The Army is taking rapid, positive, and meaningful steps towards reducing systemic and symbolic inequities, while safeguarding every person in our formation."

The Army's Project Inclusion initiative will ensure "that we have an organization that is truly inclusive and makes everyone feel like a valued member of the team," McConville said.

Further, the Army will continue to focus on counseling, sponsorship, and reinforcing the "Army as a team of teams," through the "This is My Squad" initiative led by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston.

Army museum

The National Museum of the United States Army also announced it would open on Veterans Day.

"I'm excited about the opening of the National Museum of the United States Army," McConville said. "It's an amazing facility that shares the history of our Army through the artifacts and stories of the soldiers that have served. I hope you all get a chance to see it."

The new facility is located in a publicly accessible area on Fort Belvoir, Virginia. It is the first and only museum to tell the entire history of the U.S. Army since its establishment in 1775, museum officials said.

Enhanced health and safety measures will be taken to ensure the safety of visitors, official said. Free, timed-entry tickets will also be required to manage visitor capacity and provide an optimal experience for all.

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