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Vice Chiefs Report Status of Reserve-Forces Transformation

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2006 – The National Guard and reserves are being employed as an operational force in the global war against terrorism, necessitating change in how they are structured and funded, the chairman of a Congressionally-appointed commission looking into the services' reserve-component operations said here yesterday.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Lt. Col. Dirk Smith, 94th Fighter Squadron commander, and Maj. Kevin Dolata, the 94th's assistant director of operations, turn in on final approach to Langley Air Force Base, Va., March 3 to deliver the first F-22A Raptors assigned to the 94th Fighter Squadron. Air Force Reserve squadrons today also are being equipped with the latest planes, like the F-22 Raptor, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. D.W. Corley said yesterday during a Commission on the National Guard and Reserves hearing on Capitol Hill. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker, USAF

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The Guard and reserves' role today "is truly a transformation" compared their use as a strategic reserve during the Cold War, Arnold L. Punaro, chairman of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, told the military services' vice chiefs during a hearing at the Rayburn House Office Building.

The situation has far-ranging implications and a bearing on how reserve-component personnel are organized, trained, equipped, compensated and supported, said Punaro, a retired major general in the Marine Corps Reserve and a former chief of the Corps' Reserve Affairs Directorate.

The independent commission was chartered by Congress to review current and anticipated reserve-component missions and compare them to existing laws and policies to ensure that the National Guard and reserves are structured to best meet U.S. national security requirements. Stood up March 1, the commission was created as part of the 2005 National Defense Authorization Act.

Punaro said the 13-member commission is divided into six subcommittees: personnel and compensation, requirements and organizations, mobilization and demobilization, homeland security and homeland defense, readiness training and equipping, and funding analysis.

The armed services' vice chiefs, including Army Gen. Richard A. Cody, Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard, Marine Gen. Robert Magnus and Air Force Gen. John D.W. Corley, were on hand at yesterday's hearing.

"What has your service done to change the way you recruit, retain, equip, compensate and support the reserve components in light of their operational function?" Punaro quizzed the assembled generals.

The Army general responded first, noting Punaro's question "gets to the heart of the issue." Cody recalled how the Army had fielded an active-duty force of 1.3 million soldiers and a 670,000-member reserve-component contingent in the 1970s during the Cold War. "We had a deep, active-component well in which to dip into during the Cold War, as well as fighting in Vietnam," Cody said.

Much of that force was deployed overseas to Vietnam, Germany, South Korea and elsewhere around the world, he said. "We had hundreds of thousands of soldiers on active duty in Europe; we had almost two divisions in Korea; and you know the commitment we had in Southeast Asia during that timeframe," Cody said.

All of that changed with the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which presaged the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Cold War was over, and America didn't need such a large military. The U.S. Army reduced its ranks across the board by 42 percent, Cody recalled.

Cody then fast-forwarded to Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the United States and the war on global terrorism began. At that time, he said, the Army had about 480,000 active-duty soldiers, around 350,000 guardsmen and about 205,000 reservists.

The war against terror and subsequent deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq necessitated "that we had to look at the Army National Guard and the Reserve as an operational force," Cody said.

Complicating matters, he said, was the fact that both the reserve components and the active forces were under funded throughout the 1990s. That included a $54 billion shortfall of equipment across the active Army, National Guard and Reserve, he said. "We never resourced them," Cody said, noting that as the United States entered the war against terror it was apparent that the Army needed to revamp its force structure.

The unwieldy division structure the Army used during and after World War II has been in the process of being jettisoned over the past five years in favor of lighter, more mobile combat brigades that better fit current and envisioned missions in the 21st century. Those brigades will be similarly equipped and trained, Cody said, whether they are active duty or reserve component. "This is about taking a force that was not very useful, that was hollow, that was under equipped, undermanned, and restructuring it in a way to meet the future (security) requirements of this nation," Cody said.

The Navy's reserve-component force is also being upgraded and revamped, Willard said. "We are now one Navy," the admiral said. Dramatic changes have occurred across the Navy in recent years that have extended to its reserve forces, he said.

For example, the Navy now manages educational and training requirements for all of its personnel on an equal basis whether they are active or reserve. Today, "you would have a difficult time distinguishing between an active sailor and a reserve sailor," Willard said.

Marine Corps' reservists are being more woven into the fabric of the Corps and many are deployed overseas to battle terrorists, said Magnus, is the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. In fact, a third of Marine ground forces in Afghanistan and Iraq are reservists, he said. There've been many reserve mobilization lessons learned since Sept. 11, and "we continue to learn as we go along," he said.

The Air Force continues to move toward achieving a totally integrated active, National Guard and reserve force, Corley said. About 40 years ago, the Air Force ratio between numbers of active aircraft and reserve planes was about 8 to 1 in favor of the active-duty component, Corley said. Today, the Air Forces' active-reserve aircraft ratio is about 2 to 1 in favor of the active component, he said.

Air Force Reserve pilots today are being equipped with the latest planes like the F-22A Raptor, Corley said. "That speaks well in my mind towards how we have stayed on course and on glide path of this Total Force integration," Corley said.

Contact Author

Gen. Richard A. Cody, USA
Adm. Robert F. Willard, USN
Gen. Robert Magnus, USMC
Gen. John D.W. Corley, USAF

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