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Cragin Assumes Duties as Acting Head of Reserve

By Paul Stone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 8, 1998 – If service members are looking for senior leaders who can not only "talk the talk," but "walk the walk," then they've found it in Charles Cragin.

Cragin is the acting assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs -- a position he assumed following Deborah Lee's departure from the office in mid-April.

As the acting reserve affairs chief, Cragin is relying on almost 37 years of military experience to help guide him in his new role, including three years of active duty and more than 33 in the Naval Reserve.

"I certainly have the historical context of the Naval Reserve at least," Cragin said. "And I think, as I've watched from my personal vantage point as a drilling reservist, I bring to the table an understanding and appreciation of how some of these policy issues that we work in reserve affairs truly impact the men and women in the field or on the deckplates."

Because of his experience, Cragin has witnessed first-hand what he calls "the phenomenal transformation of the reserve force."

"When I first came into the reserves, we had been fighting the Cold War. I had been on a ship sitting off Havana Cuba for 18 months as part of the Cold War process," Cragin said. "We were a reserve force that was waiting and ready for the 'big one.'"

Since that time, he has seen the reserves become increasingly integrated into the total force. No longer waiting for the "big one" to be called up, reserve forces regularly are tagged to carry out or augment operations throughout the world. Indeed, since 1995, more than 15,800 Guard and reserve members have done rotations in support of the Bosnia missions. Desert Storm, Cragin said, was the watershed event.

"Desert Storm proved unequivocally that the political leadership was ready and willing to use the reserve forces," he said. "It also demonstrated the reserve forces were ready when called."

This transformation of the role of Guard and reserve forces naturally leads Cragin to his No. 1 priority: integration of the Guard and reserve into the total force.

He said Defense Secretary William Cohen's emphasis on integration, combined with the increased military reliance on the reserve components, helps move the process forward. But more can be done.

"I would like to be able to say in five years we truly do have a seamless, totally integrated force that participates at all levels of the process as a total force," Cragin said.

This includes funding and personnel, what missions the reserve components assist in and strategic planning issues. "We've come a long way, but we're on a progressive journey and we've not yet reached the end of that journey," he said.

Cragin cited the recently announced program giving Guard and reserve forces primary responsibility for responding to attacks by weapons of mass destruction as just one more example of efforts to further integrate the force.

Under that program, 10 rapid assessment and initial detection teams will stand up by the end of fiscal 1999.

Reserve component personnel have changed mindset and behavior because of the changes forced through the integration process. Guard and reserve personnel, he said, accept that their military jobs require more than just two days a month to stay prepared and ready for deployments. And, he pointed out, they have taken on these extra responsibilities willingly in order to become a more integrated part of the total force.

Cragin emphasized that many core competencies, such as military police, medical units, psychological operations and civil affairs, are now predominantly based in the reserve components. This increases the likelihood they will be called up.

This transformation and integration process has required similar changes in the way DoD emphasizes quality of life issues.

A study is now under way to determine the feasibility and costs of providing reserve component personnel with unlimited commissary access. Officials are examining other issues such as pay parity and disparities in health care delivery. Also, DoD reserve affairs is conducting a family support conference in Portland, Ore., to address increased family support concerns based on the changing role of the Guard and reserve forces.

Sometimes, however, smaller issues have proven to have great impact, such as the change to using the same ID card for all forces earlier this year.

"Reservists understand they don't get any more benefits from having the same color ID card, but it was a profound statement," Cragin said. "It sent a message from the top of the chain of command on down that this is a total force, I believe it's a total force, and we're going to do whatever we can to identify and eliminate these cultural and structural barriers."

Another issue being examined is the ability of service members to seek presidential appointments for family members to attend military academies. Currently, active duty personnel with eight or more years of service may seek presidential appointments. Cragin is investigating the possibility of providing the same benefit to reserve component members with equivalent time in service.

The only predictions Cragin will make are that integration will continue and change is inevitable.

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