Wilbur E Wolf III
01/03/2013 12:00:00 AM EST |
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The 28th Infantry has supported the War on Terror for 11 years now. In the following interview, BG Wilbur Wolf highlights the various personnel, equipment and training requirements for maintaining a combat ready force and points out the unique challenges of being the only NG unit with STRYKERS. Read on...
The 28th Infantry has supported the War on Terror for 11 years now. How do you foresee the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, being tasked to support global operations moving forward?
As you mentioned, the Pennsylvania National Guard (both Army and Air Force) along with the rest of the reserve component (and in this case the National Guard), has been decisively engaged in the War on Terror, particularly since 2001. In contrast to the old rules and responsibilities of the National Guard that I first grew up with when I was on active duty when the National Guard was a strategic reserve force, we in the 28th Division along with the rest of our National Guard peers have very much transitioned to an operational force. We’ve managed to have every formation in the Pennsylvania National Guard deployed at least once in support of the War on Terror, and although we anticipate some slowdown in that, obviously as the War in Iraq has ended, and we anticipate the ramp-down to the War in Afghanistan, we still have more than 2000 soldiers of the Pennsylvania National Guard right now headed to Kuwait and Afghanistan, and we’re anticipating the deployment of our 56th Striker Brigade to Afghanistan early 2014.
As an operational force, what do you think the requirements will be for personnel, equipment, and training in order to maintain a combat ready force?
I think the demand on the National Guard will continue to require us to be extremely flexible in terms of equipment, personnel, and training. The one thing that we do anticipate changing somewhat significantly is on the training end of the requirements. In the last ten or twelve years we’ve been able, based on the funding of both wars that have been ongoing, to be trained by others to a very great extent. Wherein, there was funding to bring mobile training teams and others to Pennsylvania and we’ve had robust training capabilities at deployment platforms around the country as our soldiers prepared to go to their combat tours.
We anticipate a significant reduction in that availability of external trainers, so we’re required to bring those training capabilities back into the Pennsylvania National Guard, and that’s something we haven’t done for a number of years. So, we have to get smart and go back to those basics of training that we were much more used to prior to 2001.
On the personnel end of things we’ll continue to be stressed and require a very dynamic response. The model of the National Guard is to always remain ready, and although we anticipate some of the requirements for deployment to gradually decrease, we never know exactly where that decrease is going to be. So, across our formation for the 15,000 or so members of the 28th Division and the almost 20,000 soldiers and airmen of the Pennsylvania National Guard, we’ll continue to look to every one of them to continue to be ready. I would say that the demands on some of our low-density high specialty skill sets, particularly in the signal and military intelligence domains…we don’t see those going down, we see those increasing over the next couple of years as the specialty requirements across the formation (active and reserve) continue to increase.
I would say on the equipment end in the National Guard, we’ve been benefactors of some very great support in normalizing our equipment fielding similar to our active component brethren, and that has drawn with it the most modern generation aircraft, the most modern generation armored equipment, the most modern generation command control C4I equipment, and with that it has really stretched our capability internally to support that great breadth and depth of equipment. So, while we see some of the contribution that we will give in terms of numbers to that operational force and the war afar, we don’t see any reduction or simplification or reduction in our requirement to support things from a personnel, equipment, or training perspective.
Being the only National Guard unit with STRYKERs, what unique challenges does this present for the PA National Guard moving forward?
We typically look at this STRYKER deal as not so much as a challenge but as an opportunity. I’ll tell you, we’re the only reserve component formation with STRKERS, and with the fielding of the STRYKERS in PA, I guess seven or eight years ago in the Pennsylvania National Guard, we got a phenomenal capability. Not only with the STRYKER equipment itself, but with all the rest of the technology and training that came with it. Based on getting that STRYKER formation in the Pennsylvania Guard we were able to upgrade, modernize, and in some case build new armories and maintenance facilities all across the Commonwealth, we got more than 4000 soldiers who are trained in the newest most modern generation of wheeled armored equipment in the army. And, we saw that as a tremendous opportunity and not so much of a challenge.
On the challenge end of it, obviously the STRYKER system is a bit more complex than some of the systems we’ve traditionally fielded in the Pennsylvania National Guard and 28th Infantry Division, and when we first fielded the STRYKER we were stretched thin with the kids who not only had to learn to be STRYKER Crew members, but also we had kids who were going to an extra 6-10 months of schooling for the C4I Systems that supported them. I would say now that we’ve been able to have that formation for a number of years and we’ve deployed that Striker Brigade to Iraq, and as we’re preparing to deploy our STRYKER Brigade again to Afghanistan, we’re on pretty solid footing in terms of the training, equipping, and the personnel fill for that unit. I would say the final thing with regard to those STRYKERS is we’re extremely pleased that we continue to receive from active duty very experienced STRYKER Crewman and those used to operating within the STRYKER Formation transitioning from active duty assignments into the National Guard, and we continue to be great benefactors of getting those kids into our formation.
From your perspective speak to what you aim to get out of the Military Sustainment Summit and what value you hope to bring to the event as well.
Particularly from my seat of Assistant Division Commander for Maneuver for the 28th Division first, I want to be able to impart upon those who are attending the summit with me some of those challenges that we just talked about in terms of sustaining and maintaining a National Guard Formation, in this case configured with an Infantry Brigade, and Armored Brigade, Combat Aviation Brigade, and a STRYKER Brigade. We have the luxury of having all four of those Maneuver Brigade formations within our division in Pennsylvania…but that also presents some unique challenges. So, that leads me to the second point…I would like to be able to garner from those attending the summit with me some of those world class/best case examples of how others around the army and the department of defense are facing some of these unique challenges of training and sustaining low-density high skill/high-demand personnel on the maintainer side, and how others are dealing with sustaining and maintaining equipment and formations in non-standard unit configurations. I would also like get some ideas on how others are dealing with sustaining and maintain challenges in joint and multinational mission configurations, how others are working with and dealing with this incredibly new and complex rainbow of systems that we field for our overseas missions. I would also like to gain particular insight from some others attending on how we continue to blend the utilization of organic military maintainers in our formation with what I see as the increasing dependence on contractor support for some of these highly complex systems that we field and fight with in today’s formation.