Deploying Unit Shows Differences Between Active, Reserve
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
FAYETTEVILLE, Feb. 14, 2004 It is different when a National Guard unit deploys.
Families applaud their soldiers at the end of a deployment ceremony for the 30th Enhanced Separate Brigade at the Crown Center in Fayetteville, N.C. The brigade is going to Iraq in the coming weeks. Photo by Jim Garamone
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
The "total force" includes active duty and reserve component service members. And while the missions that like units go on are identical, there are differences in the way active duty and reserve components deploy. These differences were apparent at the Feb. 12 deployment ceremony for the 30th Heavy Separate Brigade. The unit is the first National Guard combat brigade to deploy since the end of World War II.
The brigade will deploy in the next few weeks, and includes units from New York, Minnesota, Maryland, California, West Virginia and Illinois. The core of the brigade is the 3,500 members of the Old Hickory brigade based in Clinton, N.C. The unit will serve with the 1st Infantry Division, and relieve the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq.
While the Guard and reserves have been stalwarts in the war of terror, most of the units deployed have been in the combat service and combat service support areas. But that doesn't mean some combat units have not deployed. The Florida National Guard sent combat units to the Middle East last year, and the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve have had squadrons providing air support to coalition troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 188,000 reserve component service members are serving on active duty today.
The first difference between active and reserve component forces that a person notices is in age. The 30th looks a bit older than the typical active duty unit. The infantrymen and armor crewman average three to four years older than their counterparts on active duty, officials said. Many served on active duty and transferred to the Guard following that service. Some of the soldiers in the brigade wear combat patches from the 101st Airborne Division and the 10th Mountain Division.
The age difference is most noticeable in the noncommissioned officer grades. Some platoon sergeants and first sergeants in the unit are approaching 50. "Yeah, we're a little bit gray," said one first sergeant with a smile. "But you know what they say: 'Age and treachery will overcome youth and enthusiasm every day.'"
The first sergeant said the added experience will help in the situations the soldiers probably will confront in Iraq. "I think we will have more patience," he said. "We have more experiences to draw on."
He laughed and said, "Also, most of us have teenagers at home."
But not all. Many families with small children and babies attended the ceremony. One 5-year old boy was dressed in desert camouflage and saluted (with his left hand) during the national anthem. Others held up signs wishing Daddy or Mommy good luck in their mission.
How the families will cope during the yearlong deployment is a concern to the brigade leadership, and that too, is a different from active duty.
On the active duty side, soldiers deploy from a post, and efforts to help the families are concentrated at that base. Even the North Carolina portion of the brigade has soldiers coming from every portion of the state. That concentrated family support effort won't work for the Guard.
"We've come up with Family Support Teams in communities around the state," said Chaplain (Capt.) Steven King, a Protestant chaplain with the brigade. "We're also working with the Big Red One on family matters. The (North Carolina) adjutant general's office is also working with state agencies to provide support during the deployment."
While the dispersion of service members can be viewed as a problem in family support, another aspect of Guard service helps in the situation. In many cases, service in the National Guard is a family matter. Many of the Guardsmen are the third generation of family members serving in the unit. They come from small towns and cities all over the state, and they are rooted in the communities.
"My family has been in North Carolina since the 1700s," said one lieutenant. "I'm related to half the people in town. I guarantee that if something happens to me, there will be 200 people at my house asking what they can do to help."
A Guard official said many of the communities have adopted 30th Brigade companies and are working together to see that families have what they need to make it through the deployment. Civic and veterans organizations also are working to ensure families have what they need.
"Like the Army, these communities will care for their own," he said. Officials said the tradition is the same in other states. The New York infantry unit that will deploy with the brigade has a similar attitude toward service, officials said. The 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry comes from central New York state, and the people of the region are gathering around the unit as it prepares to leave.
The counterpart to this is that communities, too, rely upon the Guardsmen. State officials said that many communities are losing the very people who make it work. Many police, firefighters, paramedics and government officials also are National Guardsmen. A state official said one town's Volunteer Fire Department was decimated by the call-up.
"Other people, who don't normally volunteer, stepped forward," he said.
A final difference between active duty and reserve component service members is that active duty personnel do not have to worry about their jobs upon their return. The military asks a lot of service members, but it also asks a lot of employers of reserve component service members.
"Large corporations have the depth to absorb a year-long loss of personnel," said a state Guard official. "Smaller companies do not." Some companies have continued the Guardsmen's medical coverage. Still others have made up the difference between the Guardsmen's civilian pay and their military salaries.
Smaller businesses don't have the pockets to make these kinds of allowances, but they are still doing what they can for the called-up Guardsmen, said officials. There have been remarkably few problems to date, said the official. The state is working with the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve organization to anticipate problems.
"I expect the real problems will surface when the brigade comes home," said the official.
With all the differences, there are similarities between the active duty and reserve component. The professional attitude, the unit cohesion and the sense of mission are the same.
The Guardsmen of the 30th Brigade have been through the same training and have the same equipment as members of the active Army. Their leaders are held to the same standards as NCOs and officers on the active side. Perhaps the most telling aspect of their service is the sense of obligation to do their parts.
"My granddaddy went (to World War II), my daddy went (to Vietnam)," said one sergeant. "Now I guess it's my turn."