Now that the calendar has turned to 2018, we at First U.S. Army are gearing up to celebrate the 100th birthday of our historic unit and America’s first numbered field army.
First Army has been headquartered on the island since 2011, but I suspect many in this community may not fully know who we are, what we do, or realize how critical our mission is to our nation’s defense. Throughout this centennial year, we hope to correct that.
To say that First Army has been a fighting force that has changed the tide of American history is not hyperbole. A century ago, as the U.S. entered the fray of World War I, First Army was established, under the leadership of Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, to serve as the expeditionary force leading all American troops. France was on the verge of collapse and our battle-weary Allies dearly needed us. First Army delivered, routing the Germans during the Battle of St. Mihiel, then smashing the Hindenburg line and speeding the German surrender in the Meuse-Argonne offensive.
During World War II, First Army established an impressive list of “firsts” after overseeing the entire D-Day operation: first on the beaches of Normandy, first into Paris, first to break the Siegfried Line, first to cross the Rhine, first to link up with our Soviet allies at the Elbe River.
From the 1950s through the 1970s, First Army mobilized and deployed thousands of soldiers to the Korean and Vietnam Wars. In 1990, we trained and mobilized more than 41,000 soldiers for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. And since 9/11, we’ve mobilized over 1.2 million troops into the fight.
If you have sons or daughters, grandchildren or siblings, friends or neighbors who have deployed with the National Guard or Army Reserve for this nation, then First Army has impacted your life.
First Army has the critical role of partnering with every single Guard and Reserve unit in the continental United States and two U.S. territories. We provide training support to ensure the combat readiness of each reserve-component unit that deploys, a sacred mission that we know carries the gravity of life and death for those we send into harm’s way.
In an increasingly complex world with threats from nations seeking to expand their global influence, as well as non-state actors and terrorist groups, this mission is essential to our national security. Should worldwide events require our nation to flex into a large-scale conflict, it will be First Army that makes that possible as we augment our active-duty units with the more than 500,000 in our reserve force. Think of us as our nation’s strategic insurance policy.
Even more, since up to 60 percent of combat support now lies within the reserve component, our active-duty Army literally cannot fulfill its mission without its Guard and Reserve peers. Bottom line: in today’s volatile world, we no longer have the luxury of training our reserve-component forces after our nation is in a fight.
Our “new normal” is that we must be constantly prepared. Readiness is our Army’s number one priority – there are no other number ones.
Critical milestones often spark reflection about where we’ve been and where we’re going. So in the coming year, we will be spearheading a first-class celebration of this first-class unit.
We at First Army are proud to be your neighbor – and over the coming year we hope to do a lot more outreach to share our incredible history and dynamic future with our Quad-City partners.