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Sharpening The Blade
By Scott Curtis, First Army Public Affairs
Aug 18, 2011 - 3:00:58 PM
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Blackanthem Military News

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. - One of America's greatest military minds, Gen. George S. Patton said, "Untutored courage is useless in the face of educated bullets." Although Patton's words were written in 1922, the meaning still holds true; the best military training and readiness is essential to the success of troops on the battlefield.

First Army ensures America's reserve component (RC) Soldiers have the skills necessary for success in combat. First Army was officially established on August 10, 1918 in France, and has consistently answered the call to defend freedom and democracy around the world.

To mark the anniversary, First Army's commanding general Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek took a moment to reflect on its storied past and luminaries with the members of his command Friday.

"We can look back with pride on the 93-year legacy we have enjoyed, and honor those who have forged the path for us toward the future," Bednarek said. "There is a common expression in the military which says, 'we stand on the shoulders of the veterans who have gone before us, because they are the ones who set the conditions for success,'" Bednarek continued. First Army's lineage includes some very recognizable names such as "Black" Jack Pershing, George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Omar Bradley, and George Patton.

It also boasts some significant historical milestones including the reduction of the Saint Mihiel salient east of Verdun, one of the first solo operations in World War I for the United States. First Army Soldiers also drove the Germans out of France during the Meuse-Argonne offensive west of Verdun, arguably the greatest American combat victory during the First World War.

During World War II First Army Soldiers engaged in the D-Day invasion, were the first Americans into Paris, the first to cross the Siegfried Line, and first to reach the Rhine River in Germany.

Evolving from its early successes in World War I and II, First Army advised, assisted and trained the Army Reserve and National Guard to improve and sustain their readiness to answer the nation's call. In the decade since 9/11, the RC has become a truly operational force and an integral part of the war fight.

Soldiers are the centerpiece of this effort: First Army uses their feedback to continually improve the training for deploying formations to best replicate the conditions units will experience once in theater. First Army's training brigades are comprised of combat veterans who have the experience and skills necessary to ensure the training RC units receive is relevant to current conditions, credible to those we are training and ultimately produces competent and confident warriors.

However, there are clear reductions in the future. "Part of (the drawdown) is driven by the gains we have achieved," said Bednarek. "As deployment loads continue to decrease, we are no longer required to send as many Soldiers into harm's way, and that's a positive thing. Just four or five years ago our mobilization load was just about 90,000 Soldiers per year, next year our expectation is around 56,000. Internally, we have to be smart and look for the right efficiencies...to benefit the state of training and readiness for the war fighter."

First Army is positioning itself now to meet the challenges of sustaining RC readiness in the future by developing a training support strategy that is geared to support the Army Forces Generation (ARFORGEN) training model - a five-year plan of increased unit readiness resulting in trained, ready and cohesive units.

First Army is working with the National Guard, the Army Reserve, Forces Command and the Training and Doctrine Command's "Centers of Excellence" to leverage Army training assets to support building readiness in RC units to produce trained and ready forces for the nation.

First Army's specific mission requirements continue to evolve and expand as it enters its 94th year, but elevating the state of training and readiness for the war fighter by providing the right level of readiness for the right capabilities remains the cornerstone. Whatever those capabilities are, First Army continues to ensure that when called, America's citizen-Soldiers are ready to achieve whatever task our nation gives them.

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