U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville visited Fort Hood and discussed the U.S. Army’s ‘People First’ initiative, Spc. Vanessa Guillen and the Warfighter 21-4 exercise at Fort Hood’s Mission Training Complex on Thursday.
“For the Guillen family, my heart goes out to them. I had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Guillen and I told her we would take the lessons learned about what happened to Vanessa, and we would implement them across Fort Hood and implement them across the entire Army, and we are in the process of doing that,” McConville said. “That is why we set up the ‘People First’ task force.”
McConville said the U.S. Army has always been about people but that sometimes this priority needs to be reinforced.
“Some will say ‘mission first, people always’ and as I take a look at the Army after almost 20 years of combat, and I look at how many times the soldiers at Fort Hood that we’ve asked to deploy to combat at come back multiple times, I think the time is now to focus on our people to make sure we’re forming cohesive units where everyone takes care of each other and treats each other with dignity and respect,” McConville said. “Unit cohesion leads to units that are ready to go off to combat and fight and that’s why it’s about people first.”
McConville said he is already seeing positive changes from the initiative, but more work needs to be done and will be an ongoing effort.
“I see us making positive steps, I don’t think we’re where we need to be, but I do see us moving in a positive direction,” McConville said. “We’re going to learn as we go through it and when we find out things that aren’t working, we’re going to change them, or we’re going to fix them and take the initiatives that are working.”
McConville addressed critics of the new initiative and said the Army was receptive to any feedback and ideas to foster positive changes.
“We invite everyone to bring their ideas because at the end of the day we want to have the best military, the best Army that we can have,” McConville said.
Warfighter 21-4 was a corps-level exercise involving U.S., U.K. and French troops, and at least four installations including Fort Hood, Fort Bragg, N.C., and Grafenwoehr, Germany. The exercise indicates the U.S. Army’s return to preparedness for large-scale theater-wide combat operations, focusing on interoperability with multinational forces.
“This is a very important exercise because it’s not only with the III Corps, the 1st Armored Division and many of our other units, but also with a division from the United Kingdom and a division from France,” McConville said. “So, we think this is an extremely important exercise for the United States military, the United States Army and for our NATO partners.”
McConville said the exercise was a great opportunity for the United States to work on interoperability and large-scale ground operations with lessons learned on teamwork.
“The lessons learned were working together we bring incredible capabilities to the battlefield, and that’s what we saw during this entire exercise,” McConville said. “During each operation we got better, we got stronger, and we leave this exercise with a much stronger military, both for the United States, the United Kingdom and France.”
McConville said the Army’s motivation in returning to training for large-scale armored combat on a battlefield was the times we live in.
“We live in a time of what we call ‘great power competition’ and that does not mean great power conflict, and the way you avoid that is with a ‘whole-of-government approach’ and our contribution to a whole-of-government approach is our strong military, our strong army and strong allies and partners working together, and this is the type of exercise that does that,” McConville said.