Chairman Calls Reserves a 'National Treasure'
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2004 In this time of crisis, the reserve components are doing exactly what they were designed to do, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said here Jan. 28, and America is grateful for their service.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke at the Reserve Officers Association Mid-Winter Conference. The association inducted Myers into the Minuteman Hall of Fame. The association also named South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham "Minuteman of the Year."
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert McIntosh, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers and Coast Guard Rear Adm. G. Robert Merrilees pose Jan. 28 after the Reserve Officers Association inducted Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, into the Minuteman Hall of Fame. Photo by Jim Garamone
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Myers said reservists are integrated seamlessly into the total force, and they are serving in all aspects of the war on terror. "You can be in the loneliest place on the planet with five folks gathered, and if you ask are there any Guard and reservists, you usually get a third or two-fifths of the hands (going) up," Myers said.
The chairman said it is almost impossible to tell a reservist from an active duty service member, so many active duty personnel don't know how much the force depends on citizen soldiers.
And that was the biggest point in Myers' speech to the convention: America needs its reservists if the country is to win the war on terror.
"Four centuries ago, our militias took up their muskets to defend their families, their friends, and to fight for their liberty," Myers said. "Today our all-volunteer force fulfills that solemn contract spelled out in the first lines of the Constitution "to provide for the common defense.'"
The reserves are doing exactly what they were designed to do, Myers said, ready to spring to action the second they are needed. "This continues a legacy of dedication, of selflessness: To stand when called, to act on behalf of others in the face of danger," he said.
Myers said the current war on terror is the most important time to serve in generations. "In America, regardless of our religion, accent or color of our skin, we answer the call to arms to defend the innocent and protect the peace," he said. "Terrorists, on the other hand, seek to murder innocent civilians and provoke fear. The contrast couldn't be greater."
U.S. service men and women "obviously" do not serve for personal gain, the chairman said. "(Their service) is based on the belief that the defense of liberty is more important than personal comfort or personal safety."
Myers stressed the seamless integration of the reserve components into the total force. He cited an account by a member of a mixed reserve and active duty C-17 Globemaster III crew after a harrowing experience in Iraq. in the crew's giant airlifter was taking off from Baghdad International Airport when one of its engines was hit by a surface-to-air missile, forcing an emergency landing.
"One of the pilots said, 'I think what saved all of our lives and the lives of all the passengers is how well we coordinated and how well we communicated with each other,'" Myers said. "What a powerful statement about active and reserve and the seamless business we're all trying to perfect."
He said this type of teamwork can be found throughout the U.S. military, but there are differences when the military calls up a reservist. Individuals, families, businesses and communities all sacrifice when reservists answer the call, the chairman noted.
"These men and women bring a great enthusiasm (to the military)," he said. "They bring experience not just from their military jobs. And they bring a tremendous strength of character. And it may be that last part that might be the most important thing that reservists bring to the fight."
Myers said that when a deployment order comes to his desk in the Pentagon, he is aware of the implications. "I truly don't see just another unit mobilizing to deploy," he said. "I know that as we sign these things, there are individual men and women with wives and husbands and children and parents -- and for our reserve warriors, of course, a job and a life outside the military.
"I never forget that our reserve is a treasure and an important advantage to this great country," Myers continued.
He said citizen-soldiers remain absolutely essential to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and that the Defense Department has tried to "do what is right" for reserve component service members. He acknowledged that effort has been imperfect, and said many in the Pentagon and with the services are striving to solve the problems that have cropped up.
Overall, he said, the mobilization process needs to be changed. "We owe you all as much notice and predictability as we can, not only in times of war but in peace, to ease the personal and financial burdens (of service)," he said.
Myers said the military must look to see if the reserve components have the right balance of skills and numbers of people. "We certainly can't afford to call up the same high-demand units time after time after time," he said. "Because we wouldn't have you for long if we did. "We don't want to destroy the health of our magnificent reserve forces," he continued. "We don't want to abuse your trust and your service."
Myers said the services are looking at structural changes in the reserve components. He said the military no longer can afford duplications or inefficiencies. "We have to be sure each person adds to our warfighting capability," he said.
He said this type of transformation will require some units to retrain, reconfigure or change missions. He also said he is looking for ways to give reserve personnel more opportunities to participate in joint professional military education.
In this new kind of war, civilian experience can be even more important than military experience, the chairman noted. Myers spoke about an Army Reserve major in Iraq now who is an investment banker and insurance broker as a civilian. "He's leading the team to restructure Iraq's financial system," he said. "This is a huge project, a very important project, and we don't put a general in charge. We want to get it done right, so we put a reservist O-4 in charge of getting this done."
Myers said he is grateful for that kind of service, but understands it comes at a personal price. "(That major is) not answering his business phone or e-mail," the chairman said. "Instead, he's using his citizen and soldier talents rebuilding the financial infrastructure in Iraq that will eventually promote long-term regional stability. And he's giving hope, and he's making a huge difference to more than 25 million people."
Reserve service has a long history in America, and today is no different, Myers said. "In time of need, when our country needs them the most, (reservists) lock arms to form an unbreakable, unbeatable team," he said. "Dedicated to defending the liberties we all cherish and supporting people who are struggling to enjoy that same freedom.
"Our reservists and all our armed forces are meeting the challenge that these global terrorists represent," Myers continued, "with steel in their spines against adversaries, and hands outstretched in friendship to our friends and allies. Let there be no doubt, that we are winning this war., It's going to take us a while, there will be more car bombs and more tragedies, but the fact is we're winning this war."