Guard, Reserve Aim to Become More Mobile Forces
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2006 The era of the "weekend warrior" is over, the Defense Department's senior civilian in charge of the Guard and Reserve said here today.
America's reserve components, consisting of 1.1 million Guard and Reserve members, are restructuring to become more capable of being mobilized like their active-duty brethren, Thomas F. Hall, the assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, told American Forces Press Service and Pentagon Channel reporters at an interview.
This transformation, Hall said, is taking place because of new national security realities that have emerged as the result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U. S. and the ensuing "Long War" waged against international terrorism.
During the Cold War the reserve components were structured and equipped to perform as a back-up force to active-duty forces, Hall said. As such, he said, Guard and Reserve members of that era were expected to drill one weekend a month and perform two weeks of annual training. Guardsmen and reservists of that time, Hall added, were also expected to undergo from six months to a year of training before being deployed overseas.
The end of the Cold War in 1991 and the 9/11 attacks changed all that, Hall said. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, there's no longer a need for a large, relatively static reserve force.
And the far-flung war against terrorism, Hall said, has showcased the need for well-trained and agile military forces that can be quickly mobilized for deployment anywhere in the world. About 40 percent of the Guard and Reserve, he said, have deployed overseas to combat terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places.
Laws likely will have to be changed to facilitate the transformation of the 21st-century Guard and Reserve force, Hall said. That's because the new-style reserve components, he said, will be regulated, constructed and managed differently from the Guard and Reserve of the past.
And "you're going to have to look at the contract between the Guard and Reserve," Hall said, noting its members likely will be required to be activated and deployed for up to a year, every six years or so.
"Over a career, you might do that three times," Hall said. It's imperative, he added, that families and employers also are aware of the changed conditions of serving in the Guard or Reserve.
"This is the nature of the Long War," Hall said. Fielding a more mobile and capable reserve component force, he said, is necessary for achieving victory over the terrorists.
It's especially needed to transform the reserve components now, Hall said, since they are "absolutely critical" to U.S. national security, comprising about 45 percent of today's total military force.
Also, efforts will be made to upgrade benefits available to activated Guard and Reserve members to mirror those provided to the active-duty military, Hall said.
"When you are in the foxhole and that bullet is coming, it doesn't know whether you are a guardsman, a reservist or active duty," Hall said, "and you're expected to undergo the same kind of danger.
"And, therefore, we ought to make the benefits the very same," he said.