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Ga. ARNG Completes Soldier Readiness Processing, Safely, For More Than 6,100 Soldiers in One Month
By Maj. William Carraway
| Sept. 4, 2020
FORT STEWART, Ga. —
More than 6,100 Soldiers of the Georgia Army National Guard completed medical screenings in August as part of its Soldier Readiness Processing. This unprecedented effort was the culmination of planning by the Ga. ARNG personnel office designed to improve efficiency, reduce cost, and increase readiness while maintaining strict COVID-19 safety protocols.
“Over the course of 31 days, 6,170 Soldiers from all of Georgia’s brigades completed SRP,” said Lt. Col. (Ret.) Thomas Meeks, deputy director of personnel for the Georgia Army National Guard. “We were able to accomplish this without any incidence of COVID-19 during or following the SRP.”
The Soldier Readiness Processing, or SRP, is an Army program to qualify Soldiers for deployment. The SRP features a comprehensive medical examination and the completion of financial and administrative requirements that all Soldiers are required to complete annually.
In 2018, the Ga. ARNG personnel office, or G-1, began looking for ways to improve the way it delivered the SRP to the more than 11,000 Citizen Soldiers in the state.
“What we had (before 2018) was a 92-man medical detachment that was running four readiness events a month, and it just wasn’t sustainable,” said Meeks. “But more importantly, we weren’t able to predict our medical readiness. It might be 85 percent one day and 92 percent the next. With this concept, we can get our medical readiness to a given level and maintain it through the year.”
With the approval of the commanding general of the Ga. ARNG, the G-1 launched a five-year pilot program aimed at having a consistently high readiness level throughout the year. The plan was to have all Soldiers seen in a one-month window during annual training in the summer and host a three-day quarterly SRP for the Soldiers who missed the summer months. Newly enlisted Soldiers in the Recruit Sustainment Program also participate in SRP before they are handed off to their units, so leaders are given a fully “green” Soldier.
Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Powell, commander of the Calhoun-based 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, praised the new approach.
"The G-1 has perfected their craft of executing Soldier Readiness Processing,” said Powell. “When I deployed to Iraq in 2004, (SRP) took two to three days. Now, the average Soldier is complete in three hours.”
Powell also noted that the annual approach has reduced the time commanders and staff must devote to medical readiness.
“Before, the SRP was conducted year-round and any given month, Soldiers would be absent for important training,” said Powell. “Now we can knock out the SRP and focus the rest of the year on training. This approach to an annual SRP process increases the squadron's readiness and lethality.”
To facilitate the approach, the Ga. ARNG constructed and renovated ten buildings at the Georgia Garrison Training Center on Fort Stewart, Georgia, to provide dedicated facilities for the SRP.
“The proof of concept came with the mobilization of the 48th (Infantry Brigade Combat Team) in 2018,” observed Meeks. “During that iteration, we completed SRP for 2,500 Soldiers which was the most that had been completed in one event until that time.” In just two weeks, the G-1 has already surpassed that milestone.
The sprawling SRP site and process for navigating through 23 readiness stations were easily adapted to mitigate COVID-19 through social distancing and work-flow management. Soldiers enter and exit stations through different doors and non-commissioned officers strictly enforce mask wearing at all times. All stations feature hand sanitizer and plexiglass protection barriers between Soldiers and workers. Units attending SRP must conduct temperature and symptom checks prior to mobilizing to the SRP site and temperatures are checked before entry to all buildings.
The two-fold approach to efficiency and risk mitigation is in accordance with the guidance provided by Maj. Gen. Tom Carden, Georgia’s Adjutant General, whose response priorities throughout the Georgia National Guard’s response to COVID-19, includes protecting the force, protecting readiness, building response capacity and alleviating suffering.
“We will never drive risk to zero, but we need to do all we can to mitigate risk while maximizing our readiness,” said Carden. “We cannot respond to help the citizens of Georgia during a pandemic if we are not medically ready, and we cannot do so if we let our guard down and do not adhere to appropriate risk reduction measures.”
Brigadier General Randall Simmons, Commanding General of the Georgia Army National Guard visited the SRP site, met with Soldiers and received feedback on the improved SRP.
“The feedback I am getting from Soldiers and commanders is very positive,” said Simmons. “We are just two years into the five-year implementation plan, and we are already seeing improvements in readiness, efficiency and cost savings. These efforts make us a more ready and lethal force.”
Medical readiness is not the only function of the SRP. Soldiers also receive updates on their benefit packages. In addition to a briefing on education benefits, Soldiers are introduced to the G-1 smart phone app which provides real-time updates on programs such as the Georgia National Guard Service Cancellable Loan, which enables Soldiers to attend college with no tuition cost. Soldiers meet with retention and financial counselors who explain the value of a military retirement and visit with representatives of the Family Services Branch who provide employment opportunities with civilian employers. It is all part of what Meeks described as a “global approach to readiness.”
“The idea is that we would add a readiness station every year,” said Meeks. “Next year, we plan to incorporate a station to review record briefs for accuracy to improve promotions. I realize that no one enjoys coming to SRP. Therefore, we are constantly looking for ways to improving the experience for the Soldier, while producing the maximum amount of readiness for our leaders.”