When Gen. Daniel B. Allyn leaves Fort Bragg today, he does so knowing the Army is ready to respond to any number of challenges facing the nation.
As the head of U.S. Army Forces Command, the military's largest organization, Allyn led efforts to prepare soldiers for combat, working for much of the past year against an undercurrent of sequestration and other defense budget cuts.
The effects of sequestration linger, but the force has been much improved since the worst of the cuts last fall.
Allyn, who will become the Army's next vice chief of staff, will hand over the reins of Forscom to Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley.
Milley, most recently commanding general of 3rd Corps and Fort Hood, Texas, will be promoted to four-star general before accepting command.
Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, will oversee the ceremony on Fort Bragg.
Last fall, it was Odierno who issued a warning of sorts from a meeting in Washington, telling reporters that sequestration had severely limited the Army's readiness.
"Right now in the Army, we have two brigades that are trained," Odierno said at the time, referring to units ready to deploy into combat if needed. "Two."
Allyn, speaking during his final days in his office at Fort Bragg's Marshall Hall, said sequestration - deep, across-the-board cuts to the federal budget - had debilitating effects on readiness late last year.
But it also brought out the best of the Army as unit commanders and Army leaders surged resources to help prepare six brigade combat teams for potential combat by the start of summer.
That "laser focus on readiness" has continued "despite a pretty uncertain fiscal environment that we continue to operate in," Allyn said.
Allyn's Forscom team led those efforts. The command is responsible for overseeing more than 750,000 Army, U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard soldiers, preparing soldiers to meet the needs of combatant commanders across the globe.
Allyn said sequestration led to the cancellation of seven combat training center rotations.
While there are other ways to validate readiness, the most common is for a unit to complete a rotation at one of the Army's major combat training centers.
Most units must complete training at one of those locations - the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, and the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana - before they are deemed "available" by senior commanders.
With seven missed rotations, there are now thousands of Army leaders at every level who missed out on leader development opportunities, Allyn said. That is one of the "second- and third-order effects" that will linger long after sequestration, he said.
The journey back from the brink has not been easy.
Sequestration came at a pivotal time for the military, as leaders turned their attention to new threats after more than a dozen years at war in the Middle East.
After a "full menu" of training this year, the Army was not able to validate the majority of its contingency forces until July, Allyn said.
"The difficult thing, sometimes, to understand is that you cannot flip a switch once you restore funding and immediately restore readiness," Allyn said. "It has a steep and decisive impact when funding is cut off. It is a long, tough journey back to fully ready forces."
Forscom and Army leaders are working hard to maintain and build readiness to the highest levels in an effort to lessen the impact of a second sequestration, which could happen if Congress does not stop it.
"It's kind of like the boxer who gets hit with a straight arm but immediately comes back on the attack and overwhelms the opponent," Allyn said.
As of Aug. 11, the two major combat training centers had completed 13 rotations for active brigade combat teams. Another two brigades are training, officials said.
Each training rotation includes elements of the Army, U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard, officials said.
The partnership among the types of soldiers highlights another main effort during Allyn's time at Forscom.
Leaders have partnered Reserve forces with active troops to integrate major training. It's a mirror image of the past decade-plus of deployments, where active and reserve troops have worked side by side, Allyn said.
The readiness efforts go hand in hand with another Army focus that has grown under Allyn's command.
While the war in Afghanistan remains "job No. 1," the Army now has forces aligned to each combatant commander across the globe and has sent forces to every combatant commander's environment in the past year.
Allyn said there has been close collaboration between Forscom and those commanders, with training for regionally aligned units tailored to the needs of the region where they may be called to serve.
"That has been very, very powerful," Allyn said.
Each command is full of uncertainty and complexity, Allyn said, and the training tests a force's ability to respond to myriad threats, such as counterinsurgency, peacekeeping and even criminal activity.
Allyn said the Army has the "deepest bench of combat experienced leaders at every level since World War II," but those leaders face unknown problems.
At the same time, he acknowledged that many of those leaders are being pushed out of the force by budget constraints.
"It's been very, very tough to have to tell seasoned combat veterans in our noncommissioned officer and officer ranks that while they have served heroically and responded repeatedly to the needs of our nation, our Army's getting smaller and that their services will not be required in the active component," Allyn said.
Allyn said he wants to encourage those troops to continue to serve as "soldiers for life" - whether in the Reserve or National Guard or as "ambassadors" to the Army in civilian careers.
Allyn became the 20th commander of Forscom in May 2013 after a stint as commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.
Allyn will become the 35th vice chief of staff of the Army, taking over for Gen. John Campbell.
Campbell, who previously served in the 82nd Airborne Division and 18th Airborne Corps, will become commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan.
Milley, a 34-year Army veteran, previously served with the 82nd Airborne Division and 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg.
He has had multiple command and staff positions across seven divisions and Special Forces and has also served on the operations staff of the Joint Staff and as a military assistant to the secretary of defense.
While leading Fort Hood, he deployed as commanding general of ISAF Joint Command before he was replaced in Afghanistan by the current Fort Bragg commanding general, Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson.