The Army National Guard and Army Reserve will play a key role in the Army's plan to regionally align its forces with combatant commands around the world. (Army)
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The Army National Guard and Army Reserve will play a key role in the Army's plan to regionally align its forces with combatant commands around the world.
Senior leaders from both components have made clear their soldiers want to be trained and ready, and they want to contribute.
"How do we keep this force tuned up?" said Lt. Gen. William Ingram, director of the Army National Guard. "We've had half a million Guard soldiers deployed in the last 11 years. We don't want to stop the engine and let it sit and let it idle."
Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, chief of the Army Reserve and commanding general of Army Reserve Command, agreed.
"How do you keep the Army Reserve part of the operating force?" he said. "Prevent and shape in Africa and around the globe, that's perfect for the Army Reserve because … the Army Reserve has unique capabilities that don't exist in the Army or the other services."
Here's a look at how each component will be part of the Army's regionally aligned forces effort:
Army National Guard
The Army is going to get smaller as the budget decreases and the U.S. draws down in Afghanistan, Ingram said.
The Guard foresees having about 28,000 of its soldiers deployed at any given time — with about 18,000 of them in Afghanistan — at least for the next two years, he said.
It also continues to prepare for domestic operations, whether it's responding to the aftermath of a hurricane or tornado or supporting a gathering such as the NATO summit that took place this year in Chicago.
What the Guard doesn't want is to get rusty after gaining all these hard-earned lessons learned from the past decade of war, Ingram said.
"We're going to regionally aligned forces, and the Guard is side by side with the Army with this," he said, adding that the intent is to use soldiers for exercises or engagements when they're in the final or "available" year of the Army Force Generation model.
The regional alignment also fits nicely with the National Guard State Partnership Program, a 20-year-old program that has resulted in partnerships with 65 nations around the world, Ingram said.
The program aims to establish and sustain enduring relationships with partner nations, and it gives the Guard opportunities to interact with its partners' active and reserve forces, interagency partners and nongovernmental organizations.
Activities, which are coordinated through the combatant commanders, the U.S. ambassadors' country teams and other agencies, include military-to-military engagements on issues such as disaster response and mitigation, homeland defense, interagency cooperation and border security.
The Guard already has partnerships with a number of countries in each of the six geographic combatant commands, including Romania, Ukraine, Kosovo, Estonia, Hungary, Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, Kazakhstan, Jordan, Indonesia, Thailand, Mongolia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Ecuador, Haiti, Bolivia, Panama, Honduras and El Salvador.
"We hope to do more in [Africa Command] and [Pacific Command]," Ingram said. "We're willing and able to do it, but the [partner] country has to ask for it."
The Guard must be more selective in the future and get the most out of its training exercises, Ingram said.
"We share with the total Army," he said. "We want to partner. We want to be involved and engaged where the Army is involved and engaged."
The component expects about 13,000 of its soldiers will continue to be engaged in operations around the world — including in Afghanistan — this year and next year.
Plans are in the works to give soldiers more predictability and align them with the regional combatant commands, senior leaders said.
The Reserve will align its 38 theater commands with the active Army's corps, Army Service Component Commands and combatant commands, Talley said.
The one- and two-star commands that are functional, such as the 335th Signal Command, the 200th Military Police Command, and the 412th Theater Engineer Command, will be aligned and have personnel positioned forward as part of Army Reserve Coordination Cells, Talley said.
These cells, which would be a new organization, will be manned by full-time Active Guard and Reserve soldiers, and they will represent all the enabling functions, he said.
Together, the cell will coordinate the enablers the Reserve sends to an area of operations, he said.
"They'll provide daily planning to the ASCCs and reach-back to the theater commands at home," Talley said.
The Reserve already has soldiers in some of the combatant commands, so standing up a coordination cell would simply formalize and synchronize the Reserve's role in those theaters, Talley said.
"I already have 3,500 soldiers supporting PACOM," he said. "I don't have people in AFRICOM, and I want to increase efforts in [Southern Command]."
For all other soldiers, who typically conduct one drill weekend a month and two weeks of annual training a year, the goal is to align them with a region as they enter the ARFORGEN cycle and use them, if needed, during their "available" year.
"We must provide soldiers predictability, and not just soldiers, but also their families and employers," said Maj. Gen. Luis Visot, the Reserve's deputy commanding general for operations. "We will do the best we can with predictability, but [soldiers should] be prepared to do things such as theater security cooperation, building and developing partner capacity. We've trained you, you've got combat experience, and we want to use you."