Gen. Robert Cone returned to Central Texas on Thursday to speak about the future of the Army at a Central Texas-Fort Hood Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army corporate sponsorship luncheon at Central Texas College’s Anderson Campus Center.
“The responsibilities of our Army are far greater than preparing the next brigade to go to combat,” said the commander of the Training and Doctrine Command. “We have to start thinking about our responsibility for shaping the future of the Army. We are shaping the next generation of leaders to grow and develop and, frankly, we are going to have to do that without the primary mechanism we’ve used the last 12 years, which is send kids to war every other year and give them invaluable experience. But the fact is all that is going to change in ’14.”
While changes to the force structure are coming, Cone said the Army also must transition from an Army of execution to an Army of preparation, with more focus on leader development. About 35,000 noncommissioned officers are currently in a rank they haven’t been to school for, he said.
“Many of us older gentlemen and ladies in the room, who perhaps went through the Cold War, understand what an Army of preparation is about. ... It is new if you were to have a bunch of soldiers in here today,” Cone said.
Young soldiers have tremendous experience at war, but lack the institutional education and professional development of the previous generation, and the idea of this transition makes young soldiers uncomfortable.
“The First Team Express is a year at home, a year in theater,” Cone said. “All they care about is experience, and what do you do when you don’t have Afghanistan to send them to?”
He said he expects the Army’s chief of staff to unveil a new leadership development plan by the end of the month.
As for the 80,000 soldiers the Army is expected to cut, Cone said he has crunched the numbers and he sees an Army with 32 brigade combat teams — 14 heavy, 10 light and eight Stryker brigades. These brigades will expand to have an engineer battalion and another maneuver element.
“We are upgrading the forces we have,” he said.
Cone was one of four former III Corps and Fort Hood commanders in attendance at the first lunch hosted specifically for the nonprofit’s business supporters in a while, said Bobby Hoxworth, chapter president and president of First National Bank-Texas.
While Central Texas has the largest number of general members of any AUSA chapter, Hoxworth said he hopes to also reach that status with business memberships.
“I think Fort Hood ought to have more,” he said. “Businesses say they want to support soldiers and families, and AUSA is a great way to do that.”