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By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane,
Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office
Recently the director of the Joint Staff, Brig. Gen. Bryan Howay, was selected to be the deputy commanding general for 1st Army West. I sat down with him to get his thoughts on what the opportunity means to him and what his role will entail.
CRANE: First off sir, congratulations on your selection to this important role with 1st Army. Can you talk about what the mission of 1st Army is?
HOWAY: At 1st Army, the mission there is to conduct training radius oversight mobilization of designated forces, which can be Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, DA civilians, contractors, or pretty much anybody who's been tasked to mobilize. We make sure they get trained up to whichever regional combatant commander’s standards are for this mobilization. It could include individual augmentees, or entire National Guard divisions. So it encompasses the whole spectrum of forces. Anybody who's deployed in the last 20 years is familiar with 1st Army and understands the role they play. Pre-mobilization training is a big part of it. And then, all mobilization demobilization activities are funneled through 1st Army, which has two divisions; east and west. They are kind of split down whatever side of the Mississippi they fall on.
Right now, there are several mobilization stations throughout the country, but Fort Bliss and Fort Hood are the main mobilization stations. Of course, both training sited are on in the western half of the country. Thus they have the lion's share and almost all the mobilizations go through there. My role as the deputy commander is to assist the Commanding General - being wherever he can't be, kind of like being a force multiplier for the commander. I’ll be there to ensure standards are being upheld and that there aren't any issues between the training units, National Guard Bureau (NGB), and the combatant commands. I’m the go between guy to handle and smooth over any issues that may arise.
CRANE: For someone on the outside, describe how you fit in to the wheel from a day-to-day standpoint. What does that look like?
HOWAY: The job is dual hatted. So I have this job almost as an additional duty to the job I'm doing now. Units are in almost an infinity loop of training; ramping up, progressing towards their ready year, getting notifications, sourcing them, deploying, being deployed, demobilizing and then coming back through the training cycle. When a unit is notified that they're going to be sourced for deployment, my role - if it's a larger unit- is to work with the commander and discuss the training they want to conduct at pre-mobilization. Post-mobilization, they're going to focus on how we get them to where they need to be. Then, I can conduct follow-up meetings to make sure those gates are still relevant and they can still be met. Once they do mobilize and head down to the Mobilization Force Generation installation (MFGI), we look at how the training is going and how it's progressing and communicate that with the Combatant Command that they're going to, making sure that they're ready to deploy.
CRANE: How will this affect the Kentucky National Guard?
HOWAY: It gives the Kentucky Guard the opportunity to sit in at some of the highest levels with Active Duty units and at NGB. It will help us see what training is going to be conducted in the future, how our training fits into the grand scheme of things. We’ll see what types of units that are being deployed and how we fit into the combatant commands structure, and where we can best apply the training that we're doing every drill weekend and annual training to best support combat commands overseas. It allows me the opportunity to be at the table when they're talking about these things.
CRANE: How would this affect, if at all, the position that you have currently as the director of the Joint Staff?
HOWAY: This isn't the first time that a Guard officer has taken a role like this. I have a certain number of days that can apply towards working with 1st Army, and I have a certain number of days I can apply towards working with the Kentucky National Guard. It’s a pretty tried and true concept. The model exists on how to balance both things. I have to ensure I work on the things that need to be worked on. It's a balancing act. I don't think it'll affect this job too much because it gives me the ability to better focus on the units conducting training by giving them more refined guidance. I think it'll help in the end.
CRANE: Do you anticipate a lot of travel?
HOWAY: There’s typically quite a bit of travel anticipated but since we are currently in a COVID-constrained environment, travel has been restricted quite a bit. But I can foresee when larger units get mobilized, it will be best to travel to their unit headquarters at their local training areas to discuss training, pre-mobilization and post-mobilizations. There will be a number of opportunities to go to the MFGI’s to make sure there aren’t any issues there, both through the mobilization process and the demobilization process.
CRANE: What does it mean to you, personally, to take on this role and this challenge?
HOWAY: I'm very excited to do it! 1st Army is an Active Duty Division, and for a National Guard officer to be named as the deputy commander is a great honor. This is a key developmental assignment in my career. I hope this continues on for several years leading toward a division command and further my career in this organization.
CRANE: Is there any experience from your career in the Kentucky Guard that you can take into this new position?
HOWAY: Oh, absolutely. I deployed as a company commander of the Infantry Battalion S-3 operations officer for the Battalion, and a Battalion Commander. Those experiences being on that side helped shaped who I am also just being a being a Brigade Commander and Chief of Staff helps me understand large-scale operations. Everything in my career has set me up for this position.
I'm excited and I'm honored to take this on, and this is a position I was selected for from the Chief National Guard Bureau. They place great trust in me based on my record of experience and I don't foresee letting them down. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and I am looking forward to the challenge.