Pentagon Channel Documentary Focuses on Guard, Reserve Members
By David Mays
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 19, 2007 They were once known as “weekend warriors,” ordinary citizens who gave up just a little bit of their time for minimal military training and a paycheck.
“What we advertised was one weekend a month, two weeks in the summer, that’s all we asked,” said Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve Command. “We were not going to mobilize and go to war unless the Russians came across the Fulda Gap (in Germany); … we were going to have plenty of time before we were needed to mobilize, to train, to get organized.”
That changed forever on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the United States launched the global war on terror. Since that war began, first in Afghanistan and later in Iraq, tens of thousands of National Guardsmen and reservists have been mobilized with lightning speed and shipped off for a year or more -- leaving behind jobs and families -- to fight battles thousands of miles from home.
The Pentagon Channel is dedicating its latest half-hour monthly documentary, “Recon,” to an in-depth look at the people and the units that comprise today’s reserve components. “Citizens in Service” takes a look at the history of the Guard and reserves and the gritty reality “part time” servicemembers face alongside their active-duty counterparts.
“These days, the men and women who make up our Guard and Reserve forces are more integrated into the Department of Defense missions around the world that even before,” Air Force Master Sgt. Daniela Marchus, host of the documentary, said. “In fact, they’re usually indistinguishable from those who’ve chosen the military as a full-time career. Like their active-duty counterparts, they spend more time away from home, families and friends. And they face the same dangers.”
The documentary features servicemembers who have served in both active duty and reserve-component capacity and share their candid experiences from the present and the past. “You know, back then you got leftovers from the regular Army,” said Sgt. Maj. Lana Labay who volunteered in Vietnam, served active duty stateside, then joined the Army Reserve. “We got the old uniforms, the old boots. It was really outdated.”
“To me it was insulting,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Leon Caffie, who heads the U.S. Army Reserve Command. “I came from the active component to the reserve component that was basically a social group. We had organizations that had no idea what they were doing. They were looking for 14 days annual training which in most cases was a big party.”
“Remember, before Sept. 11, it was a strategic reserve,” Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said. “The nation made a strategic decision to accept risk and not equip the Guard fully.”
The documentary traces the massive call up of Guard members and reservists members during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield in the early 1990s when American forces were assembled to force Saddam Hussein’s army out of Kuwait after it invaded and tried to annex Iraq’s tiny border country.
“I think Desert Storm was a test of our ability to mobilize the force and deploy it,” Stultz said. “But what it did not test was our ability to sustain it.”
This “Recon” shows how lessons learned from the first Gulf War and subsequent missions, such as enforcing the no-fly zones over Iraq, helped fine tune the role of the Guard and reserves as modern warfighters.
It also shows how even greater changes became necessary after the Sept. 11 attacks and looks into the future of the reserve components, including goals laid out by Defense Department leaders. “One thing the attacks made obvious was that the fight in our future would be nothing like those of the past,” Marchus said.
“Citizens Who Serve” debuts Friday, March 23rd and encores throughout the month of April. It is also available via podcast and video on demand at www.PentagonChannel.mil.