In February 2017, we were called upon to send a battalion headquarters and seven companies of Drill Sergeants to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri to support the increase in the Army’s end strength. When the President went on television, just a few weeks earlier, and signed the order to increase the overall size of the Army, we knew that it was only a matter of time until the Army would turn to the 108th Training Command to make it happen. There was no one else that the Army could turn to, and sure enough, the mission came our way.
We were given a little over three months from the time that we received our mission, to putting the first Soldiers in place at Fort Leonard Wood. In Army Reserve terms, three months is incredibly short notice. Most reserve units who are called on to go on active duty have much more lead time than that. We didn’t get that sort of time to plan and prepare, but our entire team responded magnificently and made the mission happen.
If there is one key lesson to be learned from our experiences, it is that we have to be ready! The way things are going, we can expect to be called on again and again, and always with very short notice. As the Chief of the Army Reserve often says, if you aren’t ready, you aren’t relevant. We want to be relevant, and that means we have to be ready.
There are four pillars of readiness. Combat readiness, Soldier readiness, Family readiness, and Safety readiness. Each is critical. If we are doing the right things in each of these areas, we will be ready when our nation calls.
Combat readiness revolves around our ability to perform our mission. Do we have qualified Drill Sergeants in our formations who are familiar with the most current standards for conducting initial entry training? Are they prepared to conduct training in a fashion that is at least as professional as our active duty counterparts? Quality training is the key to this pillar of readiness.
Soldier readiness is about whether, among other things, each Soldier is physically fit, medically and dentally qualified, and current in their military education. Another way to describe Soldier readiness would be “personal readiness.” All of these things, and more, come together to create a Soldier who is able to be called forward, on short notice, to perform a mission. A Soldier who is not personally ready is a Soldier who will not be available to perform their mission, and therefore a Soldier who does not add value to our Army.
Family Readiness is the third pillar of readiness. Soldiers have families that are very important to them. Before the Soldier can be comfortable going on mission, they need to know that their family is taken care of. This means doing advance planning for mobilization or deployment – each Soldier should have a plan for taking care of finances, insurance, family medical issues, and the like. It also means that each unit should have an active Family Readiness Group so that each Family member has somewhere to turn if they face challenges while their Soldier is away on mission.
Safety readiness is the final pillar of readiness. We can never afford to lose a Soldier due to unsafe acts. Soldiers need to think their actions through, and be sure that they don’t do things that create unnecessary risk for themselves or their teammates. If our Soldiers practice safety in all that they do, they will be available to take care of the mission.
Our Soldiers are among the very best in the Army. When ready, they are a tremendous asset to our nation. All of us, as Soldiers and leaders, must always keep focused on ensuring that we, and our Soldiers are ready right now, because the future can come at you fast, and there is no way of telling when, or with what lead time, we will be called.