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Reserve Chief Assesses Force Integration on Balkans Trip

By Paul Stone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 1999 – There was neither a Pentagon ceremony nor so much as a cake cutting. Instead, as the second anniversary of the total force integration initiative approached, DoD's reserve affairs chief marked the event with his third trip to the Balkans for another firsthand progress report.

Charles Cragin said his troop visits Aug. 27-29 in Bosnia, Kosovo and the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia convince him two years of hard work by all the services is paying off. As principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, Cragin is responsible for implementing Defense Secretary William Cohen's Sept. 4, 1997, policy memorandum that called for eliminating all cultural and structural barriers that prevent effective integration of reserve and active component forces.

Structural barriers have been reduced through increased cooperation and coordination in carrying out DoD missions -- working side-by-side in the field. Cultural barriers are more subtle, but still important. For example, reserve component members had red ID cards until recently. Today, they carry the same Total Force green ID card as active duty members. The change eliminated a barrier, a practice that treated active and reserve component members differently.

Cragin said the integration effort is important because of the increasing reliance on the reserve component in carrying out DoD missions. For example, he said, reserve component members have contributed more than 13 million duty days annually to total force missions in the past three years -- more than 30,000 have served in Bosnia since 1995.

He said Guard and Reserve units flew more than half of all the air refueling missions during NATO's Operation Allied Force air campaign against Yugoslavia. And in the coming months, he added, the 49th Division of the Texas Army National Guard will be training to take over the headquarters element in Tuzla, Bosnia, relieving the active duty 10th Mountain Division.

While those figures and missions are both impressive and important, Cragin quickly pointed out they only tell part of the story.

"It's interesting, because what you see is that you don't see a difference anymore," Cragin said of his recent trip, which included stops in Sarajevo and Tuzla, Bosnia; Camps Able Sentry and Bondsteel in the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia; Pristina, Kosovo; and Istres Air Base, France.

"At these bases you can't tell the active duty soldiers from their colleagues in the Reserve or National Guard. You see a totally integrated force, whether it's an aviation medical evacuation unit, a civil affairs unit within a task force, or a public affairs detachment. You have to ask, 'are you Guard, Reserve or active component?'"

Equally important, Cragin said, reserve component forces "feel integrated with their active duty counterparts."

"I've heard this time and again as I've gone out to visit with service members," he said. "They really do feel like they're an integrated part of the total force and not just sitting on the sidelines. That's important, because as we see in Bosnia, Kosovo and almost all major operations, many of the key skills we need to carry out operations lie in the reserve structure. It really brings home the fact that we can't undertake operations anywhere in the world today without the Guard and Reserve."

While pleased with the progress of total force integration, Cragin is the first to concede structural and cultural barriers still need to be addressed.

"We haven't eliminated all the barriers, but we are certainly working with great perseverance to get there," he said. "We must now assess the progress we made and, most importantly, continue the momentum."

Cragin cited hostile fire pay as an example of a barrier identified and eliminated during the past couple of years. All service members today need serve only one day in a hostile environment to receive a month of hostile duty pay. Reserve component members used to earn the pay by the day until the active force's more generous rule was adopted, he said.

"Those are the kinds of issues -- the kinds of barriers that we help identify and correct," he said. "They may seem small, but they make a difference when reserve component and active duty soldiers are working side-by-side. People notice when they aren't being treated the same. We need to keep pushing the envelope as far as identifying cultural or structural barriers and the move forward to correct them."

Key areas currently being examined include health care and reserve family programs. Indeed, DoD will soon survey about 1,700 spouses to determine the quality of support they've received while their reserve component sponsors are deployed in Kosovo, Bosnia and Southwest Asia. Areas of particular concern include family centers, medical facilities and commissaries

Additionally, DoD is conducting a September conference to examine all areas of family support for reserve component personnel. Cragin said the conference will help build a strong framework for family support in the 21st century.

Barriers to total integration are also being addressed through the recently completed Reserve Component Employment 2005 study. That study examined how reserve forces will be used in the 21st century in three main areas: homeland defense, smaller-scale contingencies and major theater wars. Cragin said follow-up studies would further define specific roles and responsibilities within those three areas.

While saying there is still much work to be done, Cragin said that thanks to the cooperative efforts of all services, as well as DoD leaders, progress toward total integration is moving forward.

"We're going to continue to implement Secretary Cohen's mandate until the job is completed," Cragin said. "That means when we stop talking about the word integration, we will have arrived."

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