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    Former CECOM, APG Commander looks back, Part II of III

    APG Senior Commander tours APG South (Edgewood) shoreline

    Photo By Philip Molter | From left, Aberdeen Proving Ground leadership, including Director of Operations Bruce...... read more read more



    Story by Philip Molter 

    U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command

    Note: This is the second of three articles in which the former U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command CG and APG Senior Commander, Maj. Gen. Mitchell Kilgo, looks back on his tenure as he transitions to his new role as the U.S. Army Deputy Inspector General.

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. —The APG News recently sat down with Maj. Gen. Mitchell Kilgo to discuss his tenure as the 16th commander of CECOM and senior commander of APG. His tour of duty at APG officially ended on Aug. 6 when he relinquished command to Maj. Gen. Robert Edmonson II.

    Did General Perna (former Commander, Army Materiel Command) task you with any specific objectives for your tenure as CECOM Commander? Did that change with COVID-19?

    Yes, when I arrived at APG the Army’s number one priority was readiness. Additionally, the Army was writing the doctrine for multi-domain operations (MDO) and we were sprinting toward modernization, ensuring the Army was prepared for conducting large-scale combat operations (LSCO) by 2028. As a service, we had been focused on low intensity conflict in the Middle East for almost 20 years. The Chief of Staff of the Army, General Milley wanted the Army to get back to the core of what we were built for, executing LSCO in a multi-domain environment. A key tenant of MDO is the strategic support area (SSA) and AMC is the lead for the SSA. For CECOM that meant build Supply Availability (SA), produce Repair Cycle Floats (RCF), synchronize with Army Futures Command Cross Functional Teams early in the development process and partner closer with the PEO community.

    General Perna wanted to extend the SSA forward to the warfighter. That meant repairing and supporting the warfighter everywhere we fight and train. He wanted to focus the entire team on building, enhancing, and sustaining readiness, and modernizing. He was driving us to developing our campaign plan for how Army Materiel Command would execute strategic support. As it pertains to modernization, General Perna wanted us focused on integrating with Army Futures Command Cross-Functional Teams (CFT). For CECOM, the Network CFT was the most critical, and tied to their efforts is the U.S Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology community and our key APG partners in the C5ISR community. General Perna wanted to ensure we were incorporating logistics sustainment into the early development of programs as opposed to thinking about it on the back end. This approach ensures that we will be able to keep pace during development and guarantee a smooth transition to sustainment.

    COVID-19 slowed our plans, but only for a moment. We quickly gathered the community and got right back on path to executing our missions. The teamwork was phenomenal and weekly battle-rhythm events flattened communications and allowed us to focus on the COVID threat and our missions. I couldn’t be prouder of the C5ISR community and all the things we did to support COVID-19 response while simultaneously projecting power in support of the warfighters.

    COVID-19 was a difficult challenge to work through. We were able to relieve some of the stress by relying on the skills and abilities that we have inherent as leaders. At times, you forget you have those leadership skills, but you quickly move back to them, and I’m convinced that helped protect this community.

    What has been your biggest challenge as both APG commander and CECOM commander?

    I will give you both a professional and personal answer. Professionally, it has been the resource constraints. As the Army charges hard towards modernizing, there is a balance that has to occur. We have near-peer adversaries that have drastically improved their capabilities. They have stolen a significant amount of our technology and it is allowing them to advance faster than they normally would have. Modernization is required so that the Army is better prepared to fight and win on the future battlefield. Therefore, we need to sprint toward modernization to maintain a decisive edge.

    At the same time, our business at CECOM is sustaining the C5ISR systems that are already fielded. We are bringing new items in the inventory into sustainment at record pace. Yet at the same time, we are not totally divesting of older systems. This is a challenge for organizations like [CECOM] because we have to sustain what is already in the inventory and likewise support more expensive new systems coming into sustainment with the same or lesser resources. The rate new systems are transitioning in has accelerated and older equipment and systems aren’t transitioning out. Thus, the limited resources we have are used to sustain a larger fleet of C5ISR equipment. For an organization like CECOM, it creates turbulence and requires us to make risk-based decisions and work very closely with the organizations and major commands like U.S. Army Forces Command to ensure the decisions we make don’t cause unintended negative consequences to our ability to fight and win on the future battlefield.

    Sustaining the C5ISR portfolio is a difficult task, and we need to better educate senior leaders on the size and critically of the portfolio. It’s tremendous. Next add the niche capabilities of the Central Technical Support Facility, Information Systems Engineering Command, Army Medical Logistics Command, and the Software Engineering Center, and you begin to understand the importance of the CECOM command to Army operations. These are organizations that are not replicated in the Army anywhere and are tremendous combat multipliers. The budget cuts have made it hard to balance sustainment and modernization, but this team is doing its best managing resources to ensure we’re able to support our customers to the fullest extent possible.

    Personally, it has been an emotional year for me. I lost my brother in February of 2020 and before ever having a real opportunity to grieve, COVID struck the U.S. It’s been extra hard for me to stay focused, and I am empathetic to those that have lost someone to COVID or lost somebody during this time of crisis. Not being able to give their loved ones a proper burial must weigh heavily on their hearts. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to say goodbye while surrounded by family and I’m grateful for that. However, I would’ve loved to be able to help my mother and sister get through the tough times and have them do the same for me. I haven’t seen them since February of 2020 and I’m anxious to reconnect with them. The support of my immediate family has helped me navigate my healing and I’m thankful for that. Additionally, the team around me has helped me stay busy and kept me laughing. For that, I’m forever grateful. As I pause to think about it, I really had not, up to this point, had an opportunity to truly grieve the loss of my brother. As I transition out of this job, I’ll finally have that opportunity.
    Throughout the crisis, I couldn’t afford to take my eyes off the mission and the people because CECOM/APG is a key combat enabler and just too important to the success of our Army. That helped me get through my personal challenge, but there’s still not a day that goes by that I do not think about my brother.

    What have been your biggest accomplishments since you been here?

    It’s the same for every job, caring for and protecting our teammates at APG. I gave my best to the people in the organization every day and I believe they reciprocated. For this team, what I’m most pleased with is the display of resilience. We use the word resilience too loosely sometimes, but when you see it first-hand it’s remarkable. People get knocked down and then rise to the occasion as if nothing has tugged at their waist, it’s motivating. I am really proud of that.

    Next, operationalizing this command has been a steady focus of mine. Having previously served as the G-6 at FORSCOM and the J-6 at U.S. Central Command allowed me to bring that operational experience and perspective with me. I leveraged that experience to enhance what we were already doing. It also allowed me to shift directions in a few areas while leading the command to make risk-based decisions that were most beneficial to the warfighters. We also focused on marketing our capabilities and processes to our customer base to ensure they knew where to come to get support.

    The changes we made to our Asset Management Program allowed us to get assets to our depot quicker and return them to units in record time. Additionally, our proactive refinement and use of Repair Cycle Floats provided immediate readiness to units and gave them trust in the process. Adjusting how we executed these initiatives along with educating customers on the proper use of CECOM Logistic Assistant Representatives (LARs) closed the readiness gap and made us more relevant. We also transformed the way we updated and delivered software for warfighting systems to the field. Directly linking the readiness of software to the overall readiness of the hardware platform. Our actions are helping change the way warfighters look at software and is making our tactical systems more cyber secure. We have the backing of AMC and the Department of the Army G3. I’m proud to say commanders recognize our capabilities and are leveraging CECOM initiatives more each day.

    I indicated earlier how we focused more on marketing our capabilities. A lesson I learned from retired Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford when he commanded CECOM. He would constantly call me and ask, “What problems are you having?” Then proceed to educate me on the capabilities he had in CECOM to assist me. It was a great partnership and I extended that same olive branch to Maj. Gen. Robert L. Edmonson II, incoming CECOM commander. We established a bi-weekly phone call to discuss operational challenges and solutions. This opened the lines of communications and helped focus us more keenly on warfighter needs.
    I am really happy to see that this community has gotten stronger and our relationships with our partners have gotten stronger. Even with COVID, and we have been mutually supportive of one another; there hasn’t been one senior leader here on APG that I can look at and say this organization or unit really hasn’t been a team player. Everybody was transparent, we talked through things. Disagreements became non-disagreements because we were able to dialogue and work our way through turbulence. I am pleased with that — and it is hard to make me happy!



    Date Taken: 08.16.2021
    Date Posted: 08.19.2021 09:57
    Story ID: 403184

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