Hall: New Policies to Relieve Stress, Promote Unit Cohesion
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2007 The new Defense Department policy limiting the duration of call-ups to 12 months is already in effect for National Guard and reserve members being ordered to active duty, the senior DoD reserve affairs official reported.
The new mobilization limits, announced Jan. 11, are designed to reduce stress on the force and keep Guardsmen and reservists from leaving the military, Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said during a joint interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.
Hall said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ policy recognizes that the 18- to 24-month mobilizations many Guard and reserve members faced were creating too heavy a burden.
Servicemembers, as well as their families and employers, spoke, and Hall said the Defense Department listened. “We have come to the conclusion that based on numerous inputs, that 18- to 21-months over a long war, over a career, is just too much,” he said. “It is over and above what employers and families and individuals will accept and still remain in the Guard and reserve.”
Hall reported that while shortening mobilization times, the military is also working to stretch out the time between involuntary reserve-component call-ups.
DoD’s goal is to give reserve-component members five years at home between one-year-deployments. For active-duty troops, the goal is two years at home station after each one-year deployment.
Hall acknowledged that turnaround times for both active- and reserve-component troops have frequently been far shorter -- and that this needs to change. “We recognize that we’re getting to a situation where we needed to make sure we adequately spread the burden between the active, Guard and reserve (force),” he said.
But in cases in which troops must deploy early or have their deployments extended -- a situation Hall acknowledged will sometimes happen -- he said he’s all for a new plan to compensate the affected troops. “We think it is quite reasonable that you should receive additional compensation, and that will soon be in place,” Hall said.
Gates ordered DoD and the services to come up with a compensation plan for active, Guard and reserve troops who face these circumstances.
Another new policy change -- that Guard and Reserve troops will deploy as units rather than individuals -- also is drawing wide approval, Hall said. The plan also calls for eliminating “cross-leveling,” a practice used to fill manpower slots in deploying units.
Hall described the problem with cross-leveling. When a reserve unit is identified for deployment but doesn’t have all its positions filled, those gaps get filled by smaller units or individuals from other units. But when those other units get deployed, they now have gaps, too, because their troops are either deployed or just returned from a deployment. “This just creates a ripple effect,” Hall said.
The problem is particularly troublesome in the Army and Marine Corps, which tend to deploy their combat and combat-service-support elements as units, he said. The Air Force and Navy are more likely to mobilize individuals.
Under Gates’ new policy, Army and Marine units will deploy as a whole. “So, when your unit is called, if you are serving in that unit, you will go, even if you might have mobilized before,” Hall said. “This will promote cohesion and will be a better planning factor.”
Hall said the new policy measures already were under discussion before Gates took over the top Pentagon post, but that he quickly agreed they were needed to help reduce stress on the force. The new policy will go a long way toward that goal, Hall said.
As these policies take effect, Hall said he’s convinced Guard and reserve troops will continue to “step up” when the country needs them. “They will answer the call, just like our forefathers did, and we will fight and win this battle against the forces of international terror,” he said. “And it will be because of our people and their commitment; and I want to personally thank each and every one of them in the active, Guard and reserve for what they are doing for our country.”