This is the top priority for Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg commanding general. It is why Townsend hosted his first Corps Commander’s Conference, Tuesday and Wednesday, and is also the first of its kind to be held in almost a decade.
In his opening remarks, Townsend said the conference provided an excellent platform to unify his senior command teams, as all key corps command groups were represented.
“We are always seeking to sustain and improve,” said Townsend. “This gives us a chance to combine our inputs and talk about them.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Jones, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg command sergeant major, agreed. Jones further stressed the importance of bringing together senior leadership.
“This is an important opportunity to build relationships between command teams and continue to move forward on the command’s priorities,” said Jones.
Among the many priorities Townsend has for the corps and Fort Bragg, one stands out.
“Readiness is our number one priority. There is no other top priority,” said Townsend.
As the XVIII Abn. Corps is America’s Contingency Corps and Fort Bragg is the home of the Army’s Airborne and Special Operations Forces, Townsend said it is imperative for the corps to be ready around the clock to deploy, fight and win.
To be ready takes strong leaders and decisive decision making.
“I believe in collaborative planning,” he said. “When I make decisions, I count on all of you to give me accurate information … there is always time to make an informed decision and consider the alternatives.”
When making decisions, Townsend believes leadership should take both a hands on/hands off approach. Leaders, he said, must take decisive action and act immediately on that decision.
“Use the right leadership for the situation,” said Townsend. “This can be the hands on or the hands off approach. Both can be good or bad.”
Townsend stressed that finding the balance between developing trust and empowerment, while providing command groups with directions and development, is vitally important for command groups.
“This is where I want mission command to start daily,” said Townsend. “Always consider all courses of action and determine when it is the time and place for each.”
Townsend also shared his strategic observations during his first 120 days in command and stressed the importance of upcoming and ongoing corps goals.
Over the course of the conference, other topics discussed included the Army’s strategic 2025 vision and how the corps supports that vision, ethics training, Fort Bragg’s Global Response Force/Joint Task Force mission requirements, and the importance of leader development. Guest speakers included Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ambassador Anne Patterson, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, deputy commanding general, futures/director, Army Capabilities Integration Center, and Gen. Robert Abrams, FORSCOM commanding general.
Ultimately, Townsend believes command should start each day with a specific vision in mind. Prioritizing readiness, leadership development, overseeing installation and community support, and practicing risk management is key to strengthening all levels of the XVIII Abn. Corps. Sound decision making and balanced conclusions are imperative to bolstering leadership.
“I expect you to act. That is the bottom line,” said Townsend. “I want Soldiers and leaders to observe a situation, act decisively on it and use their common sense.”