412th review last week ‘good’, commander says

Published 1:51 pm Monday, March 24, 2014

A two-day force generation review last Friday and Saturday looked at how the 412th Theater Engineer Command is progressing with training, keeping its soldiers and equipment in shape, and the ability of its information systems to efficiently handle personnel and logistics.

“One of the major missions of the Army Reserve Command is to provide trained and ready soldiers, units and forces to meet our nation’s needs,” said Maj. Gen. William Buckler Jr., the 412th’s commander. “One of the ways

USARC meets that objective is to ensure that we are doing the same thing with our units.”

The readiness review by the U.S. Army Reserve Command, he said, is like an audit and based on a report on the unit’s readiness status prepared by its staff. “It’s a report of where we see ourselves,” he said.

“It’s an opportunity for demonstrate to our higher headquarters that we are doing the right things,” he said. “We also have the opportunity to ask them for help in the things where we aren’t getting as far as we want, or we see some impediment to our progress.

He called the weekend review a good session, adding it was the unit’s second in the past 18 months. The first was in September 2012.

The goal now, he said, is to take what was learned in the review and apply it to the units in the 412th on a closer basis, because “we know our problems as well as anybody else.”

“This isn’t an inspection. This is a discussion on where are you and what do we need to do to get better,” he said.

The 412th has about 144 units based in 27 different states, involving 13,000 soldiers and officers living across the U.S.

“If you look at the eastern half (of the country), that is everything east of the Mississippi (River) and Mississippi and Ohio,” Buckler said.

It’s a massive job keeping up with the equipment and soldiers in each unit, which is one of the items for review by the USARC team.

While the 412th may face similar problems as a regular Army unit in keeping its equipment in shape, its manpower situation is different when it comes to getting the basic component of any Army unit — the soldier — trained and staying in good health.

The majority of the soldiers in the 412th are reservists, people who work at civilian jobs or are in school and train periodically during the year. It creates a challenge to ensure they are healthy, ready, trained and in the right slot, or job, for mobilization.

“In an active component, the Army that works every day, if you have a slot that is for a combat engineer, you are assigned a combat engineer,” Buckler said. “In the reserve components, both in the National Guard and Army Reserve, that doesn’t always work out that way. You join the reserve, now you’re a member on our books, but you may not be trained for the job you want.

“We have to get you schooled up … and it’s our responsibility to get you trained,” he said. “One of our challenges is taking people who want to be a soldier and training them to do the job they signed up to do.”

Since many of the reservists work at a civilian job, part of the challenge is scheduling training programs, which could last up to 14 weeks, to meet the soldier’s schedule.

Another challenge is making sure the reservists are medically qualified, that there is nothing medically that can prevent them for performing their duties.

Because reservists do not live on a military base with access to a military doctor, the Army Reserves contracts with civilian physicians and dentists to help reservists meet their medical requirements. That means, Buckler said, making sure there are sufficient contract doctors and dentists accessible to reservists.

He called the weekend review a good session, adding it was the unit’s second in the past 18 months. The first was in September 2012.

The goal now, he said, is to take what was learned in the review and apply it to the units in the 412th on a closer basis, because “we know our problems as well as anybody else.”

“We are in a continual process to improve ourselves,” he said. “ We have a cycle called the Army Reserve Force Generation Cycle that is a five-year cycle where we get people schooled up, get equipment good to go and start training, and in the last year of your cycle, you’re ready (for the missions). Each unit is in a different part of that cycle now.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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