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Chairman Speaks to Reserve Concerns at Kosovo Town Hall

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo, Sept. 19, 2003 – Hershey, Elizabethtown, Wilkes-Barre, Harrisburg. It seems as if Pennsylvania has found a home in the middle of Kosovo.

The 28th Infantry Division is the U.S. contribution to the Kosovo Stabilization Force for this iteration. The 28th is part of the Pennsylvania National Guard and is headquartered at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stopped here Sept. 17 to see how the guardsmen are doing with the challenging mission. "This is a big thing," he told division members at a Town Hall Meeting. "I don't think it's a surprise to most folks that it's gone just absolutely perfectly."

Myers spoke to the experiences these reservists have. "We've got about 173,000 reservists mobilized right now," he said. This is down from a peak of 223,000 reserve component members mobilized at the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

It compares with about 45,000 to 50,000 reservists mobilized before Iraq, he said. "I don't know what the steady state (for mobilization) will be in the future. I have no idea," he said. "I don't think it's going to be the 173,000 we have mobilized today."

The chairman told the reservists that DoD must work the mobilization process so it is more efficient. He told them that the process is still mired in Cold War thinking. "It has to be more efficient so when you are called to active duty, you spend time doing meaningful things and not sitting around waiting to do meaningful things," he said.

One sergeant used her own example to ask the chairman about rebalancing the active and reserve components. She is a military policeman activated three times for federal missions overseas and once for a state mission. She said she was told the reason she was activated so much is because there is a shortage of MPs on the active side.

"Is the Department of Defense looking at actually increasing the number of military police personnel or is it looking to increase the number of units of military police personnel so that MPs in the National Guard are not expected to fulfill the active duty role?" she asked.

Myers said this is a tough issue that often gets lost. "We talk about the right balance between the active and reserve components," he said. It was a conscious decision in the 1970s to put much of the combat service and combat service support in the reserve components. The thinking at the time was that if it was important enough to send active duty personnel, then it was important enough to call up the reserves.

"Now it means every time an active duty battalion goes anywhere, there's a reserve piece that has to go," he said. "The question you have to ask is: 'Is that the way you want to be arranged in the 21st century?'"

It also comes down to whether the military has enough people who possess certain skill sets. The chairman said, for example, more active duty civil affairs personnel are needed, "and all sorts of specialties that if you are in a protracted war against terrorism" will be needed.

The chairman said DoD is going to try to sort this question out before submitting the fiscal 2005 defense budget in February 2004. "We won't get it all right by then," he said. "This all takes time."

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