By Col. Angela Funaro
U.S. Army Central
Prior to officially assuming office as the 40th Chief of Staff of the Army, General James C. McConville visited the headquarters of U.S. Army Central at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., August 1, 2019.
As the Army Service Component Command to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), U.S. Army Central provides continuous mission command and sustainment of Army operations throughout the Middle East, Central and South Asia. McConville visited to meet with USARCENT leadership on the command’s enduring mission and ongoing operations.
Lt. Gen. Terry Ferrell, commander of USARCENT, explained how complex international relations and the current political environment present CENTCOM with rigorous challenges. Providing support to the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq while deterring Iran remain high priorities, yet China, Russia, and North Korea rose in precedence to the top in the 2018 National Defense Strategy.
McConville acknowledged that the NDS requires a realignment of defense assets, but recognized that CENTCOM remains the only operational theater where Soldiers are in daily contact with lethal enemy force.
Ferrell and his staff hosted the Army Chief for a tour of the main command post and an overview of USARCENT’s mission, organization, and requirements.
Michael Clauss, command historian, gave a quick overview of the unit’s one hundred year history – from its origins as Third Army through its evolution to the present-day theater army and Coalition Forces Land Component Command in the CENTCOM area of responsibility.
“While Gen. [George S.] Patton was our most legendary commander, the story of U.S. Army Central is greater than one man,” Clauss said. “The true legacy of USARCENT is owed to a host of dedicated soldiers and civilians – past and present – who are the heart of this headquarters and its accomplishments.”
Lt. Col. John Dixon, deputy chief of operations, led Gen. McConville through the orientation of the USARCENT main command post Operations Center (OPCEN). USARCENT “operationalized” Patton Hall by establishing a robust OPCEN at its Shaw headquarters as part of a DoD-wide effort to establish only essential U.S. military presence overseas.
USARCENT’s OPCENs at Shaw and its forward headquarters in Kuwait are manned with liaisons from its supported commands, like Combined Joint Forces for Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A); subject matter experts from enabling commands such as Task Force Spartan; and USARCENT staff responsible for overseeing operations, force protection, and logistics movement in close coordination with U.S. embassies and the host nations.
“This OPCEN allows us to maintain situational awareness of the theater from Shaw, 24-7, to ensure we could stand up a Crisis Action Team on two-hour recall when required,” said Dixon.
Given the economic significance and volatility of the Central Region, this transformation would prove to be visionary. Shortly after Lt. Gen. Ferrell assumed command, the Trump administration would pursue a “maximum pressure” campaign against the Iranian regime. The U.S.’ denuclearization policy toward Iran intensified in the spring with the designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization and the end of waivers on countries that trade with Iran for oil, making them subject to U.S. economic sanctions.
Over the past three months, the CENTCOM commander, Gen. Frank McKenzie, has received additional U.S. forces to bolster defenses against Iranian proxy forces, missiles, and other weapons that pose threats to U.S. embassies in the region as well as freedom of navigation in the Arabian Gulf and through the Strait of Hormuz. In addition to the OPCEN at Shaw, Lt. Gen. Ferrell fortified the OPCEN at the Kuwait-based forward command post.
Ferrell and staff shared information with McConville regarding Iran’s actions over the last several months and also communicated Gen. McKenzie’s appreciation of the Department of Army’s support of USARCENT’s efforts to re-establish sustainable deterrence.
Gen. McConville was most interested in understanding the breadth of the region’s current security challenges and how USARCENT will balance its CENTCOM requirements with the security priorities outlined in the National Defense Strategy and Army 2028 Strategy. More specifically, how will USARCENT support the Army’s modernization line of effort and prepare for multi-domain operations against next generation conventional forces in an era of Great Power Competition?
The centerpiece of USARCENT’s operational approach is a deliberate, well-planned realignment of overseas forces and bases juxtaposed with greater reliance on partner nation military capabilities.
Key allies and partners around the world have demonstrated greater capacity as a result of years of training and exercising with rotational Army units. Ferrell expressed confidence that USARCENT and other CENTCOM components would maintain a high level of engagement regardless of future force posture.
At the same time, USARCENT has implemented reforms to conserve resources and return savings to the Army to invest in high-demand capabilities such as Patriot long-range missiles and accurate counter unmanned aerial systems.
Maj. Gen. Bradley Dreyer, assistant chief of staff for resource management (G-8), explained how USARCENT was working with both supported and enabling units to ensure timely de-obligation of unspent contract dollars in order to maximize the Army’s purchasing power.
McConville commended USARCENT for its contract reform efforts as part of its Optimum Standards initiative, as well as its compliance with the Army’s Command Accountability and Execution Review. Both programs help identify efficiencies and improve contract oversight to reduce lost costs that in turn help afford future acquisitions to field future fighting systems.
McConville appreciated USARCENT’s enormous security challenges in the face of resource constraints.
During his visit, McConville, now the 40th Chief of Staff of the Army, stressed that geographic combatant command requests for land force options must be viewed with an eye on potential future threats. He affirmed the Army’s commitment to protecting its forces forward in theater and deterring potential adversaries in the region.
“Retain lethal capabilities that will deter our adversaries from even challenging our forces or allies on the ground.” McConville said.
U.S. ARMY RESERVE
DEPT. OF DEFENSE
U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY
BEST WARRIOR COMPETITION