Gen. Michael Garrett leads Army Forces Command, which includes more than 750,000 soldiers from the active, Guard and Reserve components. FORSCOM prepares soldiers for work in the geographic combatant commands across the globe.
Over the past year, the command has weathered the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic while supplying soldiers to the vast array of missions and obligations that the Army is committed to serving.
Garrett spoke with Army Times ahead of the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
How has FORSCOM sought to maintain readiness with the range of commitments on its plate?
As FORSCOM commander I think every day about the readiness of our Army. Are we ready to meet requirements?
Where do those requirements stand, and where do they come from? The Joint Staff, the Global Force Management Plan, all set specific requirements. But also, the Army has to be prepared to do any number of things.
The initial response force for the Afghanistan evacuation was a whole brigade out of the 82nd Airborne Division, also a division headquarters and a number of supporting units, and it was all done in a very tight timeline — a timeline we practice. That is real readiness, being able to respond in the timeline that we set for ourselves.
The bottom line is: We were able to get forces into theater and they executed the geographic combatant commander’s requirements. But another piece of readiness [involves] our Afghan evacuees and other Afghan personnel, and the temporary safe havens established at bases in the United States. That was another requirement for the Army. I thought the mission was well defined, but we are learning things about this mission every single day.
Even as there are ongoing operations and changes to talent management, the Army is updating or upgrading a lot of equipment, formations and training. What is FORSCOM’s role in that?
Modernization for me is an imperative. If you look at our adversaries, they’re modernizing.
The Regionally Aligned Readiness and Modernization Model, or ReARMM, is the key to finding the balance between the people, the readiness and the modernization priorities. We’ve built security force assistance brigades, we’re building multidomain task forces. These are allowing the geographic combatant commanders through Army components to have the right mix of combatant forces to do that.
We’re on the cusp of validating the V Corps Headquarters in Europe. The other part about ReARMM, what it is designed to help us to do, is it provides readiness for immediate response. That allows us to synchronize all three of these things so that we can meet our modernization objectives without impacting readiness or some of the people activities.
We’re pretty close to fully implementing ReARMM. Transitioning from counterinsurgency operations in a brigade combat team-focused army to large-scale combat operations in a division-centric army — that’s where we’re going. Everything from our doctrine to our equipment is geared toward the distinction.
Looking back on your time as a new officer and comparing it to now, with all of the changes, what are your takeaways?
In recent years, the Army spent a lot of time on operational and strategic-level readiness.
I thought we needed to spend more time at the point of contact. Individual and small unit excellence defined the Army when I was a young officer. We weren’t involved in a war then, let alone the multiple conflicts we support around the world today. But what we were was the best trained army in the history of the world.
What I have done in the past two and a half years — and it’s taken time for everyone to see this the same way — is push that platoons and companies can fight. They’re not just qualified on their weapons systems but are masters of their weapons systems. It has been incredibly gratifying for me to see the proficiency in our small units. I am very pleased at where we are.
I think the U.S. Army remains the most lethal army, not just on the planet today but probably in the history of the planet. What’s going to be our challenge going forward is balancing our people against our readiness and modernization requirements.
We cannot afford to waste one dollar if we want to stay on track with our modernization efforts and provide the readiness the Army and the Defense Department require on any given day. There are young kids out there that see the Army as I did as a young kid growing up — as an opportunity to do something important. What I hope is the young kids of today and tomorrow fall in love with the Army.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.