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    A First for First Army: Division West receives new CG from NGB



    Story by Capt. Steven Wesoloswski 

    Division West, First Army

    By Capt. Steven L. Wesolowski, Division West, First Army Public Affairs

    FORT HOOD, TX – For a career that started with the Massachusetts Army National Guard and involved five overseas combat tours since 1991, now totaling over 31 years of military service as a Civilian-Soldier, Maj. Gen. Richard F. Johnson achieved another milestone as he recently took command of First Army Division West.

    First Army Division West’s “Longhorns” receive what several colleagues have observed to be an invaluable leader to one of the U.S. Army’s oldest and highly respected organizations. When Johnson joined the Longhorn division to lead the mission as the first-ever Commanding General from the National Guard component in the normally Active-duty billet, Johnson brought his Guard perspective to the Total Force partnership mission, and ensuring a seamless transition of Active Duty, National Guard, and U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers to fulfill global force requirements.

    Johnson completed his duties and responsibilities as the Deputy Director of the National Guard Bureau (NGB) in Arlington, VA. He took command from Maj. Gen. Frank W. Tate on Dec. 14, 2020. Johnson and Tate worked together on assignments several years before while at the 101st Airborne Division. Now, Johnson is looking forward to continuously building new partnerships across the Total Army when it comes to Soldier readiness for global deployments, while keeping Soldiers safe from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “It is wonderful to be here at Fort Hood, and while it’s a pinnacle time for our nation’s ongoing efforts for a full recovery from the COVID-19 virus, our mission at Division West remains no change,” said Johnson during his first few days of command. “It is a privilege to be First Army’s Division West commander as we all continue to work together, further defining and expanding our main efforts as the division that can prepare and provide realistic training for all Army National Guard (compo 2) and U.S. Army Reserve (compo 3) units to meet a force readiness for any mission.”

    Division West comprises five brigades, along with supporting elements from the 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command (85th USAR SPT CMD), each with training battalions consisting of Soldiers designated as Observer, Coach, Trainers (OC/T) that directly carry out the mobilization and demobilization for assigned Soldiers arriving to their training grounds. 166th Aviation Brigade, alongside its neighbors from 120th Infantry Brigade local to Division West Headquarters, both manage extensive training requirements for units mobilizing at North Fort Hood, TX. 5th Armored Brigade conducts OC/T operations at Fort Bliss, TX, while the 181st Infantry Brigade conducts its training support at Fort McCoy, WI, and the 189th Combined Arms Training Brigade (CATB) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA.

    Other colleagues from Division West staff and brigades take notice of how Johnson brings a new perspective and direct approach to what Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers go through once they are called up to Active Duty service for the nation’s military engagements, whether the requirements are peacetime or wartime.

    “Having Maj. Gen. Johnson come in from the Pentagon and the National Guard side of the Army really allows us as a division, and for First Army, to get a fresh set of ‘eyes’ on how we're doing current operations, working our training, and building partnerships with our mission out there,” said Command Sergeant Major Kevin M. King, commanding sergeant major for Division West.

    “So, this really gives us the view all the way from the strategic level, and how that's impacting us at the tactical level with our training units out there. It’s very refreshing to read into a different side of the story,” King added.

    This is especially important, due to many Aviation assets residing in the Guard and Reserve.

    “Our mission is to train all army aviators and technicians that come from all components when they are ordered to Active Duty. From this, we do everything we can to take care of all them the same way we take care of our own, so that they can focus on their upcoming mission on-hand,” said Col. Jennifer A. Reynolds, commander of 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West, commenting from the aviators’ perspective.

    “To the Army, aviation units are exceptionally high demand, but low-density assets. And with these units coming in from every state, where they are already spread out far and wide, that can create challenges on them coming together as a team,” said Reynolds.

    Currently, the 40th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, composed of Soldiers from numerous National Guard aviation regiments from across the country, were undergoing their early phases of training by the 166th Aviation Brigade.

    “Fortunately, it is impressive seeing how so many leaders from each state are able to quickly identify and work with each other, resulting in a big difference when they leave together for their mission,” she added. “Maj. Gen. Johnson readily gets this, and because of the energy he brings to the job, to include his experience and genuine interest to making sure we get after the resources needed for these complex mission sets, it’s only going to make us better at our job as an Active Duty unit.”

    While OC/Ts are currently assigned to numerous training missions at installations assigned to Longhorn division, there are only two that remain active with non-stop rotations of mobilization events, otherwise known as Mobilization Force Generation Installations (MFGIs). Fort Hood and Fort Bliss are these MFGIs that provide deploying units with the most intense training environments necessary for continuing missions in Europe and the Middle East.

    “There is no better timing for Maj. Gen. Johnson to lead our organization,” says Col. Brian P. Wolford, commander of 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West. “Whether it’s Operation Atlantic Resolve or Inherent Resolve, we’ve got a mix of compo 2 and 3 units that are on a Title-10 deployment any given time throughout the year.”

    “From reassuring our allies or messaging our foes about the U.S. Army’s capabilities, it’s actually our Army National Guard and Army Reserve who are in the forefront of those efforts, and Maj. Gen. Johnson brings with him that credibility and legitimacy to serve responsibly over our continued partnerships to meet pre-mob and post-mob qualitative training,” Wolford added.

    The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, brought a renewed emphasis on the Total Force concept to fulfill deployment requirements, said Wolford.

    “Before 9/11, there really weren’t many Guard and Reserve units activated for overseas duty,” Wolford said. “As the last 20 years have shown in our nation’s wars and conflicts, 75% of the sustainment and support units were made up of both components. Without them, there would be no Army.”

    Wolford has embraced the Total Force concept within his own formation.

    “In addition to how Longhorn division works, it’s really the same way I approach the 120th mission. I don’t see a ‘compo 1, 2, or 3’ when working with our partners,” said Wolford. “Instead, I see a fellow American who is wearing a U.S. patch on their right sleeve in the same color uniform as me, who is going to a job that any given geographic, combatant commander needs them to do. So, it really doesn’t matter who they are and where they come from, but it’s really the professionalism and unique experiences they are bringing from their state communities to the fight, and I think Maj. Gen. Johnson will easily become the face of that for our division as well.”

    Soldiers of the 189th Combined Arms Training Brigade also reacted to the historic placement of a member of the National Guard as the commander of First Army Division West.

    “We are excited for the opportunity to serve under a commanding general from the National Guard, and value the perspective and unique experience he brings to the mission,” said Sgt. 1st Class Efrain Gutierrez, an OC/T and Operations NCO for 3rd Battalion, 364th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 189th CATB. “We look forward to fully understanding his vision and seeing the impacts it will have on the way we train our partnered units.”

    “Maj. Gen. Johnson’s experience in civilian law enforcement, and as a business owner, could bring a new approach to modernization and personnel management,” said Lt. Col. Gregory A. Jenemann, battalion commander of the 3rd Battalion, 358th Infantry Regiment, 189th CATB. “The Army has consulted and contracted with civilians for decades, but this puts our division commander with years of civilian experience in a position to lead change for the organization.”

    “A commander who is an experienced Guardsman will provide valuable insight into our partners’ support requirements,” said Lt. Col. Bowe T. Avril, battalion commander of the 2nd Battalion, 357th Infantry Regiment, 189th CATB. “Our next challenge will be returning to optimal readiness as the country returns to the previously established norms of in-person work and internet-classroom schooling. There will be greater demands on our partner Reserves and Guardsmen’s time, while we continue our high state of preparedness for contingencies and war. We will do this the same way we have met all other challenges and adapt to change; by knowing our Soldiers through intimate leadership, and shared dedication to the mission. Our responsibility is to ensure the Total Army is ready for any threat. We are excited to be led by a commander who personifies the professionalism of our organization.”

    “Our division commander is in a very unique situation to impact change where necessary for our compo 2 and 3 mobilizations, but also inspire all of our OC/Ts throughout the division to learn how to become masters of their craft,” said Mr. Philip D. Calahan, deputy chief of staff for First Army Division West. “Mass is one of the nine principles of war, and will become a requirement for successful large-scale mobilizations when called upon. From well-done After Action Reviews to the fundamentals of marksmanship, OC/T’s demonstrating these skills to Soldiers undergoing mobilization will allow them to achieve decisive results for tomorrow’s conflicts.”

    Division West continues to carry a strong tradition of being the Active Duty component that specializes in producing readied multi-component army forces under the oldest and long-established First Army, a recognized corps unit under U.S. Army Forces Command, U.S. Army.



    Date Taken: 03.30.2021
    Date Posted: 04.21.2021 15:14
    Story ID: 394369
    Location: KILLEEN, TX, US 
    Hometown: SOMERVILLE, MA, US

    Web Views: 125
    Downloads: 0