Artillery Preparing for their “Available” Year

Our guest blog is by 1st Lt. Thomas A. White, with the 1st Battalion 129th Field Artillery

In 2014, the 129th Field Artillery will reach a phase in the current ARFORGEN cycle known as the “available” year. The available year is nothing more than what it sounds like—available to deploy. Since the integration of the ARFORGEN cycle in 2006, the field artillery has deployed units to Kosovo, as a part of Kosovo Forces 10, and Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The battalion was reset in 2009 and quickly began training for a knowingly 2014 available year.

I came to the 129th Field Artillery as an M-DAY Signal Officer in 2009 with little understanding of big picture events that took place across the battalion. I vigorously executed the duties of my job and took care of the communications issues throughout the month and called it a day. Eventually, additional training came with additional duties and a bigger picture began to develop as to how demanding the National Guard is.

In 2011, I was hired into the Army Guard and Reserve, a fulltime employment program, as the battalion training officer and became field artillery qualified. In 2012, I was moved to the battalion administrative officer and am in the process of becoming AG qualified. Since becoming AGR, the complexity of training for dual missions, for literally two days a month and a 15 day annual training, has become a rather large eye-opener as to how important and demanding the National Guard really is.

Having experience in the S6, S3 and S1 staff positions has increasingly broadened perspectives on readiness as a field artillery unit. Readiness is a very broad term, but simply means “the state of preparedness of a unit…to perform the missions for which it is organized or designed.”  Readiness can be drilled down into a multitude of complex subjects that require competent leaders and their direct responsibility to meet those standards of readiness.  Readiness is a part of every staff function down to the battery and company level and ultimately down to the individual Soldier. Individual Soldier Readiness is an effort that focuses on just that, the readiness of the individual Soldier that includes training, medical, physical and mental competencies in order to carry out a mission.

In the bigger picture, the 129th Field Artillery continually prioritizes efforts of readiness so when a mission comes down, we will be able to fully support, knowing that we are “ready” in every aspect of the fight.  At the battalion staff level, the S1 focuses on providing available Soldiers to the fight; the S3 focuses on ensuring the unit and Soldier is fully trained on the mission, the S4 focuses on providing fully capable equipment to the fight; and the S6 focuses on supporting the increasingly demanding communications needs.

For the remaining of training year 2012 and training year 2013, the artillery is striving to meet the goals of the Adjutant General and the Commander in Chief for possible missions in the future.  We, in the artillery, are focused on the success of the dual missions as we continually adapt to the ever-demanding needs of the National Guard.  For the time remaining, leading into 2014, here are a few events that we will conduct in order to ensure readiness.

•    Vigilant Guard 2013 in preparation for Defense Support to Civil Authorities missions.
•    Digital exercises every four months in preparation for DSCA and artillery missions.
•    Annual Training 2013 in preparation for our artillery mission.
•    Warfighter Exercise with Alignment for Training Brigade in preparation for artillery missions.
•    Live fire exercises in preparation for artillery missions.
•    Annual medical readiness event to ensure the medical readiness of the battalion in preparation for DSCA and artillery missions.
•    Warrior tasks and battle drills each month in preparation for DSCA and artillery missions.
•    Non-lethal training in preparation for DSCA and other contingency missions.
•    Individual and crew-serve weapons qualification and training in preparation for artillery and other contingency missions.

Remaining flexible, adaptable and competent in areas of responsibility for each Soldier assigned to the 129th Field Artillery will not only ensure mission success, but provide increased capacities in all the other tangible and intangible areas within the unit. TRADOC Pam 525-3-4, The United States Army Functional Concept for Fires, states that “success in a wide range of contingencies is dependent upon operationally adaptable Fires Soldiers, leaders and organizations that are capable of Full Spectrum Operations.”  Given the truism of the facts, remaining flexible, adaptable and competent is three, of many, core values that must be met in order to meet the operational expectations of our current missions ensuring readiness is achieved when the call is given.

Please provide any questions, comments, or concerns.

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