Army Reserve Offers Military, Civilian Return on Investment
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 29, 2009 When Army Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz assumed his post as chief of the Army Reserve three years ago, he brought a mindset of focusing on the bottom line, a perspective he forged over 28 years in the private sector.
That focus, he said, has become more important than ever.
“Especially now, as we are going into a Quadrennial Defense Review, and with a new administration, we as a nation are looking at what we want our military to be,” Stultz told American Forces Press Service yesterday. “And we are asking, ‘What are we getting as taxpayers for what we are investing?’”
So whenever Stultz talks about his Army Reserve soldiers -- whether within the defense establishment, with Congress or to the troops themselves – he peppers the discussion with the term, “return on investment.”
“The theme I want to get across is that the Army Reserve is a great investment for America because of what you are getting in return,” he said.
Stultz pointed to the “huge” impact Army Reserve soldiers are making as they support national security missions stateside as well as in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, Europe, Kosovo and elsewhere around the world. They work side by side with their active-duty counterparts, he said, demonstrating the same military competencies as they carry out the mission.
But, Stultz said, they bring something more to the table: their civilian-acquired job skills and education.
Every time he visits the combat theater, Stultz said, he looks for examples of how deployed Army Reservists are “applying some kind of civilian skill you would never expect in a soldier, that he is using on the battlefield.”
He said he never has to look far, and he rattled off just a few examples. A reservist who is a building demolition expert in civilian life advised his commander in how to take down a bombed-out structure without causing additional damage. Soils engineers and hydrologists deployed with their units to Afghanistan are putting their civilian know-how to work making infrastructure improvements. Carpenters and masonry workers deployed to Afghanistan set up a school in Afghanistan to share their skills and help to build a local labor force.
Perhaps one of the most striking examples is Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, who served as an engineer for Multinational Division Baghdad, leading efforts to improve sanitation and restore essential services for the local people. In carrying out the mission, Talley drew heavily on his background as an engineering professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
Stultz said he’s awestruck by the quality of soldiers serving in the Army Reserve.
“I continue to run across soldiers on the battlefield who have great civilian educations, great civilian occupations, and they are willing to walk away from all that and put it on hold, and risk their lives to serve their country,” he said. “This is the added value of the Reserve. We are getting a return on investment as a military.”
But the return on investment isn’t limited to what the Army Reserve brings to the force, Stultz said. He pointed to a frequently overlooked part of the equation: what the Army Reserve brings to civilian communities and businesses.
“We develop talent. We develop capability,” he said. “And we give that back to America.”
Stultz introduced several soldiers he said exemplify the “value added” the Army Reserve delivers during a March hearing of the Senate Appropriation Committee’s defense subcommittee.
Among them was Army Sgt. Jason Ford, an Army Reserve drill sergeant who molds basic trainees into soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. While deployed to Iraq, he applied that expertise to train Iraqi soldiers. Now home in Brockton, Mass., he’s applying the professional experience he’s gained as a member of his community police department.
Meanwhile, the popular Army Reserve Employer Partnership Initiative that links Army reservists with civilian employers soon will sign on its 400th partner. As Stultz began sitting down with employers to hammer out details of the program, he said, he realized how much it would benefit employers as well as reservists.
“What became very quickly evident is that the employers of America are still starved for talent in a lot of areas,” he said. “Not starved for applicants, but starved for the talent they need.
“We’ve been thinking about the burden that the Army Reserve is putting on employers, because we are taking their employees away from them,” he continued. “What we ought to be thinking about is the value we can become to an employer if they tell us what their needs are. We can bring trained, talented individuals to go to work for them.”
The program has snowballed, with employers from the health, law enforcement, transportation and other sectors clamoring to be included. “They say they really value the skills we have taught soldiers,” Stultz said. “They’re asking, ‘How do we get involved in this?’”
Stultz talked about the program during a Senate hearing in March that focused on the fiscal 2010 budget request. “That’s a return on investment for this nation,” He told the senators. “That’s taking capability that we’re building, that we provide for our military in uniform, but we bring back to the communities of America.”
Yet for all this capability, Stultz noted that the Army Reserve represents a “very minimal” percentage of the defense budget. Stultz told the Senate Armed Forces Committee’s personnel subcommittee in March he’s committed to building on this investment.
“The Army Reserve is giving this nation a great return on investment,” he said. “The dollars that we’re given in our budget are used wisely, and we’re returning back to America, not only in terms of the military capability, but the civilian capability.”