Army Reserve Undergoing "Deep, Profound Change"
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2004 Army Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly doesn't like the word "reservists." Members of the Army Reserve are "soldiers" plain and simple, he said.
"I have put out a policy statement which says we don't have 'reservists.' We have Army Reserve soldiers," Helmly said during a recent interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service. "The intent there is to induce across the length and breadth of our force an identification with the simple title of American soldier."
The changes the Army Reserve is undergoing are much deeper than what the service's members are called, the general said. Leaders are working to overhaul how Reserve soldiers train and mobilize, the regulations governing these things, even how soldiers think of themselves.
"Transformation" is another word Helmly prefers not to use. He said he prefers to call what his service is going through as "deep, profound, enduring change."
"Our intent, frankly, is that our force will be ready for a call to active duty as if they knew the hour and the day that it would come," he said. "That requires that each and every soldier take their individual responsibility for personal fitness, wellness, healthcare, personal affairs, the affairs of their family, etc."
Helmly likened changing a military service during wartime to refitting an airplane during flight. "There's no time out here for remodeling. We cannot hang a shingle out that says, 'Closed for remodeling,'" he said. "We've got to do it while we're still mobilized."
Part of that remodeling is cutting "23,000 spaces worth of structure" over the next three years to have those spaces available to better fill deployable units. Also to ensure the most soldiers deployable, the service has changed how it manages soldiers' physicals and updated training guidance to units.
Until recently, Army Reserve units have spent considerable time training after mobilization but before deployment. This led to units being mobilized for 18 months for a 12-month deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. It also resulted in insufficient time to prepare soldiers to go to war.
Today the Army Reserve expects units to be fully trained and ready to go to war before an alert order is even issued. "We are requiring commanders to train warriors prior to mobilization and changing the model from 'alert, train, mobilize, deploy' to 'train, mobilize, deploy.'
"Waiting until mobilization to undergo training is simply too late. You cannot respond and you cannot have the kind of soldiers ready to fight, accomplish their mission and survive if you wait until the unit's mobilized," he added.
Such fundamental changes require a deep commitment on the part of service and defense leaders, Helmly said.
"Our soldiers on the battlefield are performing with magnificent courage. And they are really out there -- stout of heart and doing a very dangerous job immensely well," he said. "And I think here in the Pentagon, we in senior leadership positions owe those soldiers the same amount of courage, commitment and sense of urgency and energy to make changes in the institutional processes that govern how those soldiers are treated."