Army Reserve Changing to Meet Challenges
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 21, 2006 The Army Reserve is no longer simply a force in reserve, but a vital part of the country's defense that's making big changes to meet its current and future challenges, the commander of U.S. Army Reserve Command said here today.
Army Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, commander of U.S. Army Reserve Command, foreground, and (from left) Army Reserve Command Sgt. Maj. Michele Jones and Amy Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Juanita Wilson cut a ceremonial birthday cake April 21 commemorating the Army Reserve's 98th birthday. Photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly observed the Army Reserve's 98th birthday in the Pentagon's MacArthur Corridor, which honors the U.S. combat general who -- like the Army Reserve -- served in World War I, World War II and the Korean War.
Helmly noted the vast changes since the U.S. War Department created the Army Reserve as a medical service force in 1908.
Through the world wars, the Cold War and Operation Desert Storm, a strong reserve force has always been important to the country, but never more so than during the current war on terror, he said. More than 150,000 Army Reservists have been mobilized since Sept. 11, 2001, about 25,000 of them serving more than once. "These are clearly hallmarks of heroes," Helmly said.
Gone are the days when the Army Reserve was considered a strategic force that stayed in reserve until it was needed to supplement other forces, the general said. "The Army Reserve is a skill-rich, operational force, complementing the joint force where and when needed."
This shift has moved the Army Reserve's transformation into fast forward to ensure the force continues to provide the skills and combat readiness needed when it's called on, he said.
With the current deployment cycles and the ever-present risk of a sudden, catastrophic event that could demand an instant response, the reserve components must be ready and responsive, he said. "There is no time to get ready," he said. "You have to be ready on a daily basis, and that is what we are doing right now."
The Army Reserve is working to streamline the force and increase its capabilities and preparedness to deploy to meet 21st-century challenges, Helmly said. To achieve this, changes made or under way include:
Realignment of 10 Regional Readiness Commands into four Regional Readiness Sustainment Commands that ensure manpower and resources go into the deployable fighting force; Establishment of operational and functional commands to reduce the number of nondeployable headquarters; and Creation of Army Reserve Expeditionary Force packages based on the Army's force-generation model to ensure the force can sustain operations over the longer term.
But the biggest change within the Army Reserve is cultural, Helmly said. "You can put labels on things and move blocks around on wiring diagrams and go to different kinds of units, etcetera, but I think the most profound change we are achieving in the Army Reserve is changing our culture," he said.
Army Reserve troops recognize themselves as real soldiers, not just a rear-area back-up force. They're training harder, in more realistic and demanding scenarios. And with an ever-increasing number of Army Reservists wearing right-shoulder patches that symbolize their combat duty, they're bringing new confidence and leadership to the force, Helmly said.
The total culture change won't happen overnight, but is moving solidly forward, he said.