MARIETTA, Ga. – Georgia National Guard Soldiers visited Virginia to consider what lessons the Overland and Petersburg campaigns of the American Civil War offer to today’s warfight.
Brig. Gen. Dwayne Wilson, commander of the Georgia Army National Guard, said the study of large-scale combat operations in the Civil War is relevant to today’s leaders as the Army shifts its operational focus from counterinsurgency to the future threat environment encompassing near-peer adversaries and emerging technologies.
“I appreciate that our G4 team is pulling logisticians from across the state to perform this staff ride,” Wilson said. “As we transition to large-scale combat operations, it presents a different sustainment strategy and philosophy. We don’t have to figure this out for ourselves, as the lessons of history are there for us to learn from.”
One week before the November staff ride, Wilson and other Georgia National Guard leaders discussed one of the largest transformations of the Georgia National Guard in the past 40 to 50 years as the Army transitions from brigade-centric operations to division and corps-centric operations. This is not the first time the Army has confronted this transition: Georgia National Guard units were mobilized as part of Army divisions in both world wars. But as Wilson noted, the current transformation represents a departure from recent Army history.
“Early in the Global War on Terrorism (the Army) transitioned to brigade-centric operations,” said Wilson. “We transformed all our brigade combat teams to be, for the most part, self-sustaining and the focal point operationally for the Army. This worked well, especially well during counterinsurgency operations as we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
From 2001-2021, the Georgia National Guard mobilized more than 23,000 Soldiers and Airmen to support combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The largest mobilizations occurred in 2005 and 2009 when the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat team deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Georgia National Guard Airmen maintained a constant overseas presence for over two decades. With the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, senior leaders of the Army and Air components of the Georgia National Guard are making plans for the next two decades.
“Our formations will operate as part of a division and the division will be enabled by a corps headquarters,” said Wilson. “This transition is part of an approach to large-scale combat operations to allow the Army to mobilize and deploy large formations anywhere we need to in the world and execute operations successfully as part of the joint force.”
Wilson is optimistic the Georgia Army National Guard will weather the changes. Georgia was first among the 54 states and territories in overall strength management in 2022 and is a perennial top finisher in the Army’s Integrated Management System competition, which evaluates Army units based on best business practices. Wilson notes Georgia’s history of exceeding recruiting and retention goals and demonstrating sound stewardship of taxpayer funds argues well for future force structure in the transitioning Army.
“The Georgia Army National Guard has been selected as one of the first National Guard states to field the new extended range cannon. We will begin to transition the 1-1214th Field Artillery Battalion to the ERCA in the near future. As we look across the formation, we are in the process of transforming and modernizing, and we will be doing it for the next 10-15 years.”
Modernization includes replacing many key Army weapon systems. Wilson notes many familiar Army platforms, such as the M-1 Abrams, M-2 Bradley and UH-60 Black Hawk, were designed in the 1970s and fielded in the 1980s. He said he anticipates the Soldier of the very near future will face new formations and technologies.
“I can’t think of a more exciting time to serve,” said Wilson. “Soldiers coming into the formation today will be the ones to see these changes and field these new weapons systems.”
While the Georgia Army National Guard and its five brigades transition as part of the Army transformation, change is also coming to the Georgia Air National Guard and its two wings. The Savannah-based 165th Airlift Wing will upgrade its C-130H to the newest J model. After two decades of constant deployment with its E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, the 116th Air Control Wing is transitioning to the Advanced Battle Management family of systems.
“What we are doing now sets the table for the next 25 years,” said Maj. Gen. Tom Grabowski, commander of the Georgia Air National Guard.
Grabowski has seen change before. Like Wilson, he considers the lessons of history in approaching future changes.
“With change comes angst and uncertainty,” reflected Grabowski. “But the Georgia Air National Guard has flown more than 20 different weapon systems since the 1940s, and with every transformation, our Airmen have come out better.”