First Reservists Get Green Total Force ID Cards
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
FORT DIX, N.J., June 23, 1998 Symbols are important, especially when they come crashing down like they did during a ceremony here June 20. The red Reserve identity card literally went into the dustbin when seven service members -- representing each of DoD's reserve components -- exchanged their red cards for total force green ones.
Charles L. Cragin said this was one step toward fulfilling Defense Secretary William S. Cohen's vow to eliminate cultural and structural barriers to integrating the reserve components into the total force. Cragin is acting assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs as well as a recently retired reservist.
"Having spent the last 34 years as a Naval Reservist, I too have seen how people's reactions change when I produce my red ID card," he said. "For too long the red ID card has been viewed by many reservists as a form of second-class status."
Cragin said during the Cold War era this status may have been acceptable. The reserve components were a force in waiting, focused on combating Soviet threats. But that has changed, he said.
"This is the first pink ID card I ever got," Cragin said, holding it up during a post-ceremony town hall meeting. "I came off active duty on Sept. 2, 1964, as a second class petty officer and I got this pink ID card. The active duty guy that handed it to me said, 'Now you're a reserve puke.'
"That's an attitude that we have got to eliminate, because we are not just waiting for the Big One anymore. We're there working every single day."
Cragin illustrated this point. He said almost a quarter of the U.S. service members in Bosnia today are reserve component personnel. More than 17,000 have served in and around the Balkans in Operation Joint Guard. U.S. military forces could not perform post-Cold War missions without the reserve components, Cragin said.
There's a different emphasis on reserves today, he stressed."Today's reserve force is composed of people who 'RE-serve,'" he emphasized. "What we have are dedicated, highly skilled men and women. They are true partners in the total force who are RE-serving on a continual basis. Some of you Re-served in the Persian Gulf, others RE-served in Somalia, others RE-served in Haiti."
There are 1.5 million reserve component service members -- about half the total force. In 1997, the reserve components contributed nearly 13 million man-days of support to the active component. "It's the same as adding almost 35,000 men and women to the active end strength of our total military," he said.
The phasing out of the red ID card tells reserve component members that Secretary Cohen means what he says about breaking down barriers, Cragin said.
During the town hall meeting, Cragin used a C-130 flight crew as an example of structural barriers that need to come down. "It doesn't matter whether they are active duty, reserve or military technicians orwhatever -- they are flying a mission," he said. "We learned as a result of some crashes that that wasn't, in fact, true. How you and your family were treated depended upon your status."
If a plane crashes with a crew composed of an active duty pilot, a reserve copilot on less than 30 days active duty, a navigator/flight engineer reservist on active duty for more than 30 days and a crew chief on weekend drill, each member would be treated differently due to their status. Further, their surviving families would be treated differently.
"That is a structural barrier to seamless integration of the total force," Cragin said. "Those are the sorts of things Secretary Cohen is asking the services to eliminate. Identify those issues so we can then change them to ensure the men and women who RE-serve don't have to worry about what happens to their health care in the event something unfortunate occurs while they are RE-serving."
The seven service members received their green ID cards -- after they were promoted. They were Sgt. lst Class Stephen G. Noll, Army National Guard; Spec. Richard Hoppe, Army Reserve; Petty Officer Rudolph Rump, Naval Reserve; Lance Cpl. Kenneth M. Revay, Marine Corps Reserve; MSgt. Stanton Frye, Air National Guard; MSgt. Angela Alexander, Air Force Reserve; and Chief Petty Officer Richard Whitely, Coast Guard Reserve.
Before receiving their new ID cards, all members cut up their red cards and put them in the trash -- another symbol, but one that in real life will make a big difference.