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Fort Bragg general: Army has made great strides in improving force readiness

FORSCOM-USARC Headquarters - Fort Bragg, NC. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District/Released)
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The U.S. Army is more ready now than it has been in decades, a Fort Bragg general told military leaders Tuesday during the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army, or AUSA.

Speaking in Washington, Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, the deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, said the Army has made great progress in improving the readiness and lethality of the force against potential near-peer enemies, a shift that followed more than a decade of focus on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Fort Bragg-based Forces Command has been a central part of those efforts. Its mission is to prepare the nation’s warfighters, including active-duty, National Guard and Reserve forces, for combatant commanders around the world.

“Our every effort is focused on the readiness and lethality of the total force,” Richardson said.

In a panel, appropriately titled “Ready and Lethal,” Richardson and other Army leaders discussed efforts to improve upon the capabilities of the nation’s ground forces.

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Other panelists included Joseph L’Etoile, the director of the Close Combat Lethality Task Force; Maj. Gen. James Mingus, the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division; Maj. Gen. Courtney Carr, the adjutant general of Indiana; Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, the commanding general of the III Corps and Fort Hood, Texas; and Catherine Dale, a specialist in international security for the Congressional Research Service.

Richardson said improving readiness was an untiring pursuit, focused on ensuring the Army has overmatch no matter where in the world it operates and no matter which unit is doing the fighting – be it the 82nd Airborne Division or a battalion from the Indiana National Guard.

“We need to think about how we can and are making the Army ready and lethal across the breadth of the total Army force,” she said.

Those efforts over the past few years have paid dividends, Richardson said.

Carr said the National Guard was more ready and lethal than at any time in its history.

And Richardson said the Army as a whole has achieved its highest state of readiness in decades, with a 33 percent increase in the number of units that have achieved the highest readiness status possible.

The 82nd Airborne Division has historically been one of the Army’s most ready forces and the core of the nation’s Global Response Force, ready to deploy anywhere in the world within hours. Mingus said that expeditionary mind-set requires a wide range of support.

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He said the Global Response Force was much more than an infantry brigade and included dozens of formations from across the Army, including heavy units and a postal company from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

On Fort Bragg, Mingus said, the division has two brigades ready to jump anywhere in the world on short notice. That broad global mission is not easy to prepare for, he said, speaking of “the great unknown” that comes with such a mission.

“It takes the right people, it takes the right equipment and the right level of training,” Mingus said.

The general praised his predecessor at the helm of the division, Maj. Gen. Erik Kurilla, and said current leaders were continuing efforts to improve paratrooper readiness, maintain equipment and ready for future fights.

Mingus said the division focused on fundamentals of fitness, marksmanship, medical proficiency, sustainment and battle drills to ensure they are ready. And, he said, leaders are continuing to refine processes to improve the Global Response Force and soldier lethality as a whole.

The 82nd Airborne Division is participating in several cross-functional teams aiming to improve the force, including those focused on networks, mobility and soldier lethality.

L’Etoile, who leads the latter task force, said the organization has several areas it is looking to improve upon, including manpower policy, human performance, training, warfighter equipment and weapon systems and science and technology.

Richardson said efforts to improve readiness extend beyond the warfighters themselves, to each and every unit that supports those on the front lines. And it includes efforts to decrease the number of soldiers who are not deployable due to medical issues.

“We are building the entire team to move at the speed of war,” she said.

The cornerstone of those efforts are the nation’s Combat Training Centers. Since 2015, Richardson said, officials have improved upon the 14-day scenarios that are designed to test soldiers at the training centers. They have increased chemical weapons training, offensive and defensive cyber efforts and stressed operations in an expeditionary environment with denied communications.

“War doesn’t arrive on schedule, so we have to be ready and ready now,” Richardson said.

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© 2018 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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