Reserve Component Readiness Highest Ever
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2004 The state of readiness among today's reserve- component forces is higher than it has been in the nation's history, the official responsible for equipping and training those forces said today.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Thomas Hall said he believes the high state of readiness among National Guard and Reserve troops is indicative of the goodness in the American people.
"I believe the thing that has been said about America and our goodness is (that it) is not at all in the science and not at all in the equipment, but in all the people," he said during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.
Hall said the Guard and Reserve are representative of the American people because they are truly citizen-soldiers. He added that he believes today's generation of young people has the potential to be the next "greatest generation."
"Sometimes we say the younger generation is this or that. I think what the younger generation is today is patriotic," the secretary said. "And they are answering the call to colors just like their fathers, grandfathers (and) grandmothers did throughout the past."
Today's National Guard and Reserve troops are deployed to virtually every location and every mission that requires active-duty servicemembers. "So when you look in the Sinai, you look in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Korea, Europe, Iraq -- almost anywhere in the world -- you'll find guardsmen and reservists alongside their active-duty brethren," Hall said. "And in a totally integrated force, that's what you need."
Hall, a retired two-star Navy admiral, said he believes recruiting and retention will be among the greatest challenges facing the reserve components in the immediate future. With 400,000 guardsmen and reservists mobilized since Sept. 11, 2001, and 157,000 still activated today, he said the war on terrorism has led to the largest mobilization of reserve-component troops since the Korean War.
Historically, Hall explained, there has been a dip in retention rates following major conflicts. And, he added, there is no reason to believe this one should be any different. "It's a natural thing," he said. "When you've been in a war or a combat situation and you come back from that, you're not always enthusiastic about immediately going back to that. You need a decompression period.
"So during that period of time, some people will say this is just not for me," he added.
So far, all the reserve components have met their retention goals for fiscal 2004, which ends Sept. 30. And all but one, the Army National Guard, have met their recruiting goals. Hall said the Army Guard will end the fiscal year 2 percent below its end-strength goal due to a slight recruiting shortfall, specifically a shortage in recruiting prior-service troops.
"Not as many people have come out of the active Army to join" the National Guard, he said.
The secretary noted recruiting is always challenging, and it's vital "to ensure that we make service in the Guard and Reserve just as attractive as it always has been."
Policymakers need to consider what Hall called the "three-legged stool" -- the individual, the family members and the employer. If all three are not happy, chances are an individual won't re-enlist. "We have to make sure that those three legs are equal, (that) each one of them agree or the stool will tumble over," he said.
In a message directly to the reserve-component troops, Hall urged them to thank their employers, their families and their communities. He said he's touched by how supportive Americans are of their troops, which is evident in heartfelt displays of support in towns and cities across the country.
"Once again," he said, "it's a symbol (that) the strength and the goodness of this country is in our people and the way our people respond."