Reservists, Guardsmen Report for Active Duty
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 1995 The first increment of nearly 2,000 soldiers from 41 Army National Guard and Reserve units began reporting for training for the Bosnia peacekeeping mission on Dec. 18.
Nearly 800 have reported to mobilization stations at Fort Dix, N.J., and Fort Benning, Ga. for training and processing. After about two weeks there, some troops will deploy to Bosnia to assist with the NATO peacekeeping effort. Others will go to Germany to fill in for active component forces going to Bosnia.
How long soldiers stay at the mobilization stations vary according to each unit commander's analysis of what the commander wants to accomplish before leaving for overseas, Lt. Gen. George A. Fisher Jr., noted. Fisher is chief of staff of the U.S. Army Forces Command in Atlanta.
"About 15 units will actually go into the operational area, the bulk of reserve component forces will be backfilling units in Europe," Fisher said during a Pentagon press briefing. Forces Command is responsible for mobilizing and employing most active and reserve components units in the United States.
Nearly 150 soldiers from the nine units of the Army Special Operations Command and 125 soldiers from 11 units in Europe have also been tapped for duty. Some 150 augmentees from the Individual Ready Reserve have also been called to active duty, the general said.
The Pentagon can mobilize up to 3,800 reserve components personnel under the presidential callup authorization.
Reserve components soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines not part of units will go to Benning for training, Fisher said, while units will process at both Dix and Benning.
The U.S. Atlantic Command in Norfolk, Va., sent a training team to Benning to help out. "Any individuals who are destined for jobs that require joint skills or knowledge about joint or NATO process will be trained by the Atlantic Command team," Fisher noted. "This is the first time we've done that, but we think it's going to pay off for us."
Training status of all reserve component personnel and units will be validated at Fort Dix or Fort Benning before they're allowed to leave for Europe. Active duty soldiers will be trained at their home stations or at the next higher chain of command, Fisher said.
Troops must be certified in readiness, weapons qualification and protective mask fit and have family member briefings. Training includes antifratricide measures, first aid, chemical protection, cold weather operations, operational security and NATO staff procedures.
Those going into the theater of operation will undergo mission specific training at the 7th Army Training Center at Hohenfels, Germany. "That's where individuals will get the details of rules of engagement, mine awareness and cold weather training," Fisher said.
Leaders will hone their skills in risk assessment and command post and fire coordination exercises. Units will receive training in check point and patrolling operations, convoy operations and how to react to ambush, indirect and sniper fire, Fisher noted.
"Units will go through special lanes constructed for patrolling operations and practice the immediate action drills to respond to any situations that might come up," he added.
Deploying troops are receiving a soldier's guide to the Bosnia area. "It tells them a little bit about the areas, the geography, the culture, the people, and conflict and the history," Fisher said.
Reserve components are holding family briefings and have started special family support programs to keep families informed. They've also established a network to support family needs while service members are on the peacekeeping mission.
"Families handle things a lot better if they know what's going on and they're in the net," Fisher said. "So we have communications tools that let us get information out to families about what's going on not only briefings, but newsletters, telephone trees and all kinds of ways to communicate.
"We want to be sure every family knows what kind of entitlements and assistance they are entitled to and how to get them," he continued. "We've learned that if you can get the soldier connected back to the family once every couple of weeks, you really solve a lot of problems.
"We did this in Haiti during nonpeak times using our communications links at night when the circuits weren't busy to schedule soldiers to talk by telephone with their family for a few minutes," Fisher said. "Talking to your family once a week or once every 10 days lets you sort out any problems with the children or finances or anything else that has come up. It just gives you a sense of wellbeing about what's going on at both ends."
Officials have also established programs to boost the morale of guardsmen and reservists on active duty away from home during the holiday season. At Fort Benning, they can participate in Operation Holiday, a program that encourages local citizens to invite soldiers to their homes for Christmas dinner. Fort Dix has Adopt a Soldier, a program that marries a service member with a local family for Christmas dinner.