A Redleg's parting thoughts--still lots to do.
As any commander or command sergeant major knows, you dread the day when the unit colors pass from your hands to another's. Your one wish is that the new command team will enjoy a successful tour and share your passion for taking care of your Soldiers and their families. I can report with confidence that Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the Field Artillery branch will not miss a beat under the able leadership of Major General Dave Ralston and FA Command Sergeant Major William E. High.
As I prepare to "close station and march order to a new firing point and new Army missions," I would like to share a few parting thoughts. The past 19 months have seen our branch navigate through unprecedented turbulence: supporting an Army at War while becoming increasingly joint, transforming into a modular FA and Army, and leaning forward to lead the Army in developing the future combat systems (FCS). Today and for the foreseeable future, we will continue along all three of these major lines of operation while facing other challenges.
Army at War with Joint Interdependency. Unequivocally, our first priority has been--and will continue to be--supporting our Army, Marine Corps and Air Force at war. And we are fighting more and more joint.
Our service chiefs are the first set of joint chiefs to become general officers after fulfilling the joint requirements of the Goldwater-Nichols Act. They share an understanding of jointness that has propelled each service to examine ways to leverage joint interdependence.
In a joint fires sense, that has translated into some reduction of the Army's organic capabilities, trusting that joint fires will be there at the right time and right place. This has left some uncomfortable. With the introduction of the networked fires capability in the FCS-equipped future force, I anticipate they will find considerably more comfort.
Meanwhile, we are building joint interdependency by developing integrated joint doctrine and joint tactics, techniques and procedures (JTTPs). In addition, we are training 13 F Fire Support Specialists in the Joint Fires Observer (JFO) Course at Nellis AFB, Nevada, with the first JFO Course at Fort Sill to start 29 August. Among the students are nine Indiana Guardsmen on their way to Iraq along with several Air Force personnel training as JFO instructors.
We also are working to initiate training to qualify our 13F Fire Support Specialists as joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs). This initiative will help supplement the limited pool of Air Force JTACs, which the Army needs down to the company level, sometimes the platoon level, in counterinsurgency operations.
FA Transformation. We are well on our way to growing enough Fires Battalions to be organic to each of the 43 modular brigade combat teams (BCTs), which is an increase from 33 FA battalions.
Fire support teams (FISTs) in these BCTs that, in the original design were organic to the infantry companies, are being consolidated at the maneuver battalion level. In fact, at least one Active Component division commander has directed his FISTs be assigned to the headquarters and headquarters batteries (HHBs) of the FA battalions organic to his BCTs. The combat observation lasing teams (COLTs) are being consolidated at the BCT level. These consolidations facilitate better standardization of fire support training and certification across the BCT.
The concept of the Fires Brigade is increasingly better understood. Although there is not a rigid, fixed structure for the two-star unit of employment (UEx), we reasonably can expect a Fires Brigade to be an integral part of the formation during UEx offensive and defensive operations--perhaps even during security operations. The great work of artillerymen in theater has documented the incredible value and versatility our formations bring to military operations across the spectrum--artillery officers, NCOs and warrant officers leading disciplined, trained and fit FA Soldiers who are well equipped.
I recently attended a Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Commandants' Integrated Concepts Team (ICT) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to sort out the doctrine to be published in the new Field Manual (Interim) (FMI) 3-91 UEx Operations. FMI 3-91 describes how the two-star UEx will fight. This new doctrine will be on the street not later than December--earlier, if possible.
A Maneuver Enhancement Brigade will be part of the two-star UEx. It will have the UEx's Air Defense Artillery, Military Police, Chemical and Engineers in one brigade and, like the UEx BCTs, routinely will be responsible for its own area of operations. This organization will give the two-star UEx commander tremendous flexibility.
The new FMI 3-91 highlights the special relationship that will exist among the three of the UEx's supporting brigades: the Fires Brigade, Battlefield Surveillance Brigade (BfSB) and Aviation Brigade. These brigades will do the lion's share of shaping the UEx fight and setting the conditions for their BCTs' success. The synergistic relationship among these three brigade commanders will be key to the success of the UEx fight.
Although forms of both the Fires and Aviation Brigades have existed in the past, both of these formations will increase their capabilities under modularity. This is particularly true of the fires and effects cells (FECs) in these two new organizations.
The BfSB is an altogether new organization responsible for surveillance and reconnaissance of UEx battlespace not assigned to the BCTs or the Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.
Recruiting, Retention and Promotions. In terms of recruiting, we all recognize that our volunteer Army continues to be tested to get the required numbers for both enlistments as well as reenlistments. I recently had the chance to speak to some of our FA Drill Sergeants as well as some new privates who were just beginning their training here at Fort Sill's FA Training Center (FATC).
These new Soldiers represent a population unique in our Army's history: volunteers for an Army with no draft. They are Americans who have raised their right hands and volunteered to join an Army that is fighting a war. They have chosen to join the Army with the full knowledge that they, in all likelihood, will be deployed to fight for their country.
If we put this in the context of how we used to train new Soldiers at our training centers, the patriotism and spirit of these young Americans fundamentally has changed the way we train them. Not only have the programs of instruction (POIs) undergone incredible change as we embraced the Warrior tasks and drills, but also the attitude and leadership approach of our Drill Sergeants has changed. The Drill Sergeant has moved from a "push mentality" approach to one that says, "Follow my lead and, together, we will succeed in mastering these required Soldiers skills." This is powerful.
Retention is the second piece. A Soldier cannot become important to the organization only on the day that he falls into the reenlistment window. If we have not made that Soldier feel he is valued as a member of the team from the day he arrived in the unit, we are too late--the Soldier sees right through that "shell smoke."
My advice to Field Artillerymen: Do not lower your standards, but do make every effort to embrace the new Soldier and his family as they enter your organization. This is also very important for our National Guard artillery units that have become an operational reserve and continue to deploy on a regular basis, often serving in nontraditional roles.
From my observation post, our numbers are holding well, and our branch continues to enjoy the reputation of taking care of its own. FortSill's Deputy Commanding General (DCG), Brigadier General Mark A. Graham, recently traveled to speak with the ROTC cadets during Branch Day at Warrior Forge at Fort Lewis, Washington. He reports the cadets' strong enthusiasm for the branch with the realistic and dynamic Redleg training presented by Fort Lewis.
In terms of promotions, we also are having some successes. For example, this year's majors' list had a strong showing for artillerymen. We had 13 below-the-zone selectees, the most of any branch except Infantry. Congratulations to each of those outstanding promotable captains.
On the other hand, the FA CSM High has been on the net with our NCOs concerning the recently released CSM list. Unlike officer selections, NCO selections target vacancies, and this year several NCOs remained from last year's list. I am confident we will see this turn around next year, so I ask our senior NCOs to "hang in there." Next year certainly will have better numbers.
On a brighter note, Fort Sill won the TRADOC Army Drill Sergeant of the Year for the second straight year. Staff Sergeant Reynolds Jolly III of A Battery, 1st Battalion, 22d Field Artillery (A/1-22FA), FATC, garnered that honor for the FA.
Also, on 15 July, we promoted the Army's first female combat arms sergeant major, SGM Jeanette Clement. SGM Clement is en route to be the NCO-in-charge of the division FEC in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as the division prepares to deploy to Iraq.
High-Performing Redlegs. Artillerymen and their units are "getting it done." Recently, I visited the Army's first high-mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 18th Field Artillery Brigade's 3-27FA commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Bill Turner. The Soldiers of 3-27 FA were excited to be in live-fire training with their new launchers. Combining the rapid deployment capability of the lighter, more easily transportable HIMARS with the awe-some punch of the new guided multiple-launch rocket system (GMLRS)-unitary round provides component commanders tremendous capabilities. GMLRS-unitary brings "pickle-barrel" precision and scalable rocket effects (no duds) to the battlefield, including danger-close effects, from 70 kilometers away.
Our FA National Guardsmen also are "getting it done"--they are moving out on resourcing two battlefield coordination detachments (BCDs) collocated with the Air Force Falconer air operations centers. One BCD will be at Hurlburt Field in Florida with an element at Nellis AFB, and the second will be at Hickam AFB in Hawaii. Does the Guard know how to pick the "hardship" locations or what?
The performance of Field Artillerymen in Iraq and Afghanistan is renowned throughout the services. Our fire supporters are the ground commanders' "go-to" guys for lethal and nonlethal effects, including joint air power. Our officers, NCOs and Soldiers in our FA units are doing a magnificent job, many serving in nontraditional roles.
If you haven't read the blurb on the inside front cover of this magazine telling who the Soldier on the front cover is, you need to. On the cover is First Sergeant Grinston of C Battery, Task Force 1-7 FA, 1st Infantry Division, who just returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom II. He ain't your daddy's first sergeant--he's an FA Warrior.
Versatile, capable and adaptable Field Artillerymen set the Army's standard for performance in theater. Your service to the Army--and your families' incredible support--make me proud to be a Redleg.
As I give up the title of Chief of Field Artillery to the 36th Chief, I also must finally give up the red stripe on my dress uniform--all general officers have black stripes except for the chiefs of the branches. Rest assured that, regardless of the color of my stripe, I always will be a Redleg. I salute you.
Major General David P. Valcourt
Chief of Field Artillery