SecArmy sets people as top priority

Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy meets with Army National Guard Soldiers while they were activated to protect citizens and infrastructure during protests in Washington, D.C., in early June. 

WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy announced Oct. 13 that “people” have become the Army’s top priority, as the force works to give junior leaders more time to build cohesive teams.

“(After taking) a closer look at ourselves over the past couple of months, we understand the last 19 years of combat operations and global deterrence have come at a cost,” McCarthy said during the opening ceremony of last week’s Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.

“Just as we did with readiness, we must invest in people,” 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 earlier this month that prioritizes people and teams, which they touted as “the Army’s greatest strength.”

One critical change is the new Regionally Aligned Readiness and Modernization Model, 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. The ReARMM was discussed during a contemporary military forum last Thursday at the annual meeting.

Army leaders also are 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 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 also will include the reevaluation of combat training center rotations, he further noted. Army leaders intend to grow foundational readiness through training at the squad, platoon and company levels.

“Our CTCs are the gold standard for preparing 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 events – such as command post exercises, tactical exercises without troops, and fire support coordination exercises – to train Soldiers at the battalion and brigade levels.

“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 clarified. “We are discussing the prerequisites required to go to a CTC and how they fit into” the rotational-deployment model.

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. Months later, it “faced a global pandemic on a scale the world has not seen since the Spanish Influenza in 1918,” McCarthy said.

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 stayed 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 continued.

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.

“Then, we were shocked to our conscience by the murder of our own, Spc. Vanessa Guillen,” McCarthy somberly said. “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 toward 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.