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Abrams aims to keep troops motivated

General talks leadership at luncheon

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POSTED: April 20, 2011 9:28 a.m.
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Abrams

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The appointment of Maj. Gen. Robert Abrams to division commander at Fort Stewart signals two sizeable shifts for the 3rd Infantry Division. Abrams, replacing Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, takes the reins of a division that is moving away from rapid deployment cycles toward ongoing preparation for unknown contingencies.
At a media luncheon Monday on Fort Stewart, Abrams discussed his role as a leader during this shift in focus, along with other elements of life and work on the post he now leads.
“Things are different now,” Abrams told reporters and division public affairs staff at the luncheon. “In the past we sent [soldiers on] back-to-back deployments. We are training now to operate in any contingency.”
Abrams said the ideal force for such training and preparation is comprised of soldiers who “are confident in themselves and confident in their leaders. We’ve got to be masters at the fundamentals and adapt for any mission. That’s where we’re ready to go.”
Inspiring and motivating soldiers to continue training even when it seems there’s no definitive end goal on the horizon also falls on leaders at every level, who must find ways to make training challenging and fun, Abrams said.
“The motivation is to meet the standard,” he explained. Those established standards are re-evaluated depending on the task, he added. “It is about training a soldier how to think, not what to think.”
Intensive training models like field exercises are planned as much as 90 days out, the general said, with varied conditions built in, and the effectiveness of the method is evaluated through after-action reviews.
The military often leads in technological advances — primarily to improve its outcome in battle — and the division is beginning to benefit from new battlefield technologies even as responsibility for stability shifts from American troops to Iraq and Afghan forces and 3rd ID soldiers make their way home.
“The newest technology is going to go to units who are deploying first,” Abrams said. “Our BCT [brigade combat team] is currently not designated for deployment, but every brigade in the division is getting fielded with the latest M1A2 SEP tanks in our inventory.”
The M1A2 SEP tank is a third-generation Abrams battle tank equipped with enhanced armor and advanced digital systems that afford operators better situational awareness in combat. The division also has equipped every combat vehicle with Blue Force Tracker technology, which allows operators to identify friendly forces on the ground.
“The division historically has been analog while everyone else has been digitized,” he said. “We’ve got to change our mindset.”
Supporting the shift in training and new emphasis on preparing for unknown demands on the military is a task Abrams will tackle with a leadership style that he says is “out and about.” Rather than make decisions from a desk, Abrams will take the next 45 days to learn more about his new post from the men and women who are the body and soul of the division.
“Most of [my schedule] is going out to learn and having leaders show me their footprint and take me to training. That’s really my first challenge,” he said. “They’re well-oiled, they have systems that work and it’s not going to require a lot of steerage.”
Abrams is enthusiastic about being part of the 3rd Infantry Division; as a “soldier’s soldier” he embraces division life. “Being in a division means being around soldiers who, every day their days are consumed by preparing for deployment and contingencies. It’s a different culture than our generating force,” he said. “I’m a soldier first; I’ve been described as a ‘muddy boots’ kind of guy.”
The quality of leadership at Fort Stewart is a crucial element for Abrams as he leads the division into new territory. “Our job is to inspire and motivate,” he said. “I’m a leader by example and I want them to lead by example.”

 

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