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Army National Guard director: Two weeks annually, weekend per month enough?

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Nov. 18, 2015) -- Army National Guard troops go on active duty for at least 39 days a year for training and drill - but that may not be enough for the Guard, said its director, who is contemplating the amount of training time needed by Guard Soldiers so that he may provide an answer to the Army's chief of staff.

Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Kadavy, Army National Guard director, addressed an Association of the United States Army-sponsored forum, Nov. 18. He said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley has asked the components of the Army - the active-duty force, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard - to "take a harder look at how all our components work, and how do we maintain a strong, capable, modern Army."

Milley has asked in particular for more insight into how the Guard trains, and maintains readiness, something Kadavy said the Army National Guard is working on with the Army staff, secretariat and U.S. Army Forces Command.

Included in that review, Kadavy said, is a look at the number of Combat Training Center rotations the Army National Guard would have. Additionally, he said, "he has challenged us to think about training days - is 39 the right number?"

Current law says 39 days of training. Kadavy said that includes two drill days a month, plus an additional 15 days a year, for a total of 39.

But, "that's a floor, not a ceiling. I don't think there's any law that prevents us [from going for more], there is some policy that prevents too much time spent using training dollars," he said. "The Army has already made a tremendous investment in the brigade combat teams that do go to the Combat Training Centers [CTC] - the National Training Center [NTC] or the Joint Readiness Training Center [JRTC]. Additional days and op tempo are provided for ... additional maneuver training so we can maximize the readiness and the development of the BCT [brigade combat team] as it goes through their rotation."

He said the Guard gets two CTC rotations a year, one at the JRTC on Fort Polk, Louisiana, and one at the NTC at Fort Irwin, California.

Kadavy said that the rules about the 39 days were based on laws written in the early 1900s, and that Milley has asked him to consider the relevance today of such laws, and if those laws still provide what is needed to the reserve components, based on what they are providing to the nation today.

MAINTAIN MUSCLE MEMORY

The general said that the Army National Guard has done a significant amount of "learning" as its units have geared up for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 14 years, and that is something he doesn't want to lose.

"My concern is if we don't continue to do that at some level, we will lose that muscle memory," he said, adding that rotation periods for certain kinds of units have been reduced by 50 percent.

"We need to continue to exercise to some degree those lessons-learned, and then learn new lessons and continue to progress," he said. "I think our Army and our nation needs us. I always believe readiness should be looked at as an investment and not simply as a measurement of cost."

Increased time for Army National Guard training, however, comes with concerns that are not there for active forces, Kadavy said.

"From the ANG [Army National Guard] perspective, usually the requirement that is the highest, that we have to always ensure that goes along with any op tempo, is pay and allowances," he said. "For our traditional Guardsmen, funding has to be provided to bring them on duty with pay and allowances."

For commanders who run active-duty units, pay for Soldiers is not an issue when it comes to training. Those commanders need only think about the increased operations tempo, because Title 10 Soldiers are on duty year-round, and their pay is budgeted that way. However, not so with Army National Guard Soldiers.

"When you think about doing additional field training exercises for the ANG or the Army Reserve, not only do you think about op tempo, but also the pay and allowances that go along with paying for the days you utilize for either training or operational purposes," he said.

Continued readiness and retention of lessons-learned over 14 years of conflict - to remain warfighting capable and to provide responsiveness to state governors - is just one of Kadavy's five priorities for the Army National Guard.

RESOURCE AND MODERNIZE

The general is concerned about maintaining a resourced and modernized Army National Guard. To meet emerging challenges, he said, the Army National Guard "must be able to maintain a viable investment strategy for both equipment and facilities."

He said there must be a balance of dollars for ensuring unit readiness and for also maintaining modernization and quality facilities for Soldiers.

Now, he said, the Army National Guard benefits from equipment from the active Army and Congress. "But modernization is fleeting," he said.

Kadavy said he spent time in Idaho, Nov. 17, meeting with commanders and staff of Army National Guard armored brigade combat teams to discuss, among other things, their concerns about modernization and equipping.

"One of the things they commented on ... struck me as obvious," he said. "Their observation is that because of the decrease in mobilizations, and the opportunities to modernize because of mobilization, that there is this ever-growing gap that they see between their active-component brothers in ABCTs [armored brigade combat teams] and where they are today. There must be a strategy to help us maintain our equipment interoperability within the Army, within the total force. This is needed to maintain meaningful training and ensure effective domestic response when required."

One area that comes to mind in terms of that gap, he said, involves mission command systems and the compatibility between such systems.

"The Army, overall, is reviewing mission command systems, and is looking at the sets and kits for every one of our formations," he said. "But we have to have a viable strategy that gets after sustaining our equipment, and investing in new equipment as we move through our readiness model."

DEVELOP AGILE LEADERS

Kadavy also said a priority for the Army National Guard is ensuring leader development. Combat experience alone doesn't ensure success of the Guard, he said.

But "leaders of character will," he said. "I depend on these leaders of character to help foster a climate of trust, because we all know trust is the bedrock of our profession."

The general said the Army National Guard "embraces the Army leader development strategy. That's why we are developing and retaining qualified Army Guard leaders who understand our unique dual-mission within the ANG, and the nuances of the National Guard," which includes the role of providing support to their state governors as well as the role of providing a reserve warfighting capability to the Army.

The general also pointed out that mission complexity doesn't just exist on the battlefield. It also exists in the Guard's domestic mission as well. He pointed to past missions inside the United States, including support to Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, for instance, or National Guard support in Ferguson, Missouri, or Baltimore. The complexities of those missions require leaders who are as adaptive as what is required in combat, he said.

"I think you can see, as you think about the second part of the ANG's dual mission, that adaptable, agile leaders are just as important to what we do in support of governors in time of emergencies. And this complexity, I think, is going to continue to grow as we move forward," Kadavy said.

FULL-TIME SUPPORT

Also priorities for the Army National Guard are an increased focus on ready Soldiers and Families, which Kadavy said the Army National Guard supports by being "full members" in the Army's Ready and Resilient Campaign, and maintaining sufficient full-time support in the Army National Guard.

Today, he said, full-time support personnel in the Army National Guard man training missions, do recruiting duties, field and maintain equipment, and deliver programs.

He likened managing an Army National Guard mission within a state to how the active force might manage an installation, and how those installations generate readiness to assist units as they prepare for deployments.

"Just like there are tremendous differences between installations [such as] at Fort Myer or Fort Bliss, there are similar challenges to consider for 'Fort Virginia' or for 'Fort Texas,'" he said. "Each state is a little different based on the size of its end strength and the requirements of their organizations and the structure in each state."

As on any installation, in each state there are programs and services to be managed, maintenance and services to be provided, and administration for pay, contracts and logistics. For the Guard, that is provided by full-time support. He said resourcing for full-time support for Guard personnel is at 70 percent.

Kadavy has been on the job as director of the Army National Guard for about six months now. He said he's been working regularly with two other new senior Army leaders - Milley, and Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command. Both of those officers came on board to their new positions in August.

"We are all working together to set conditions for an empowered and total Army, moving forward, encompassing all three components," Kadavy said.

He said together, they are "extremely anxious" to hear the final, February 2016 report to Congress by the National Commission on the Future of the Army. The commission will make recommendations on how to modify the Army in regard to size and structure, to include the reserve components.

He said he believes in that report there will be some "lessons learned ... that we can apply to bettering our Army, and working together as all three components."