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The Demise of the Weekend Warrior

By Charles L. Cragin
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 9, 1999 – President Clinton recently authorized Secretary of Defense William Cohen to order some 33,000 members of the National Guard and Reserve to active duty in support of NATO operations in and around the former Yugoslavia.

Nearly 6,000 have already been called to duty.

The 1.4 million men and women who serve in our Reserve components-the Army and Air National Guard, Army Reserve, Naval Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, and Coast Guard Reserve-represent one-half of our nation's total military might, and they are an integral and vital part of today's Total Force. But that was not always the case, as evidenced by the terminology used to describe reservists during the Cold War, when those who served in reserve were often referred to as "weekend warriors."

During the Cold War, when the term was arguably more suitable, our forces were easily identified as being either active or reserve. Around the world and around the clock, the active forces were the ones we relied on to get the job done. Meanwhile, our reserve forces were simply that: they waited in reserve, ready for re-call to active duty if or when our adversaries struck in Europe or Asia.

But times have changed dramatically since the Cold War ended, and today reservists are standing tall around the globe, courageously defending our interests in an uncertain world. In Bosnia, over 20,000 men and women of the National Guard and Reserve have helped bring peace to a divided and devastated land.

In Central America, thousands are helping our southern neighbors recover from the awful aftermath of two destructive hurricanes, drilling wells and building roads, bridges, schools and clinics.

In Southwest Asia, they are helping enforce the no-fly zones over Iraq.

In the post-Cold War era, we have come to rely heavily on our National Guard and Reserve, not just as reserve forces in waiting but as critical contributors to the work of the Total Force. As a result, we don't really have a reserve anymore.

Although we can use the same word, there should now be a different emphasis on the syllables-a different emphasis to reflect a different type of force, a force that is composed of people who "re-serve" on a continual basis. The men and women of the National Guard and Reserve have re-served in the Persian Gulf, in Somalia, in Haiti and in Bosnia. And now, in the skies over Kosovo, they are out front, re- serving side by side with the active force.

Last year, those who "re-served" contributed over 13 million duty days to active component missions and exercises, which is the equivalent of adding nearly 35,000 personnel to the active force, or two Army divisions.

This is the fifth presidential call-up of reserves since the Cold War ended. President Clinton authorized a reserve call-up in 1994 for humanitarian operations in Haiti; in 1995 for peacekeeping operations in Bosnia; and in 1998 for the enforcement of no-fly zones over Iraq. President George Bush invoked a similar authority in August 1990 for operations during the Gulf War.

These are compelling facts and figures any way you view them, but what they ultimately show is that we cannot undertake sustained operations anywhere in the world without the National Guard and Reserve.

Every day around the globe thousands of active duty men and women in uniform risk their lives and make tremendous sacrifices in the national interest.

Increasingly, reservists are there alongside, serving extended tours away from their homes, families and jobs. These absences place great strains on the relationships between employers and their employees who serve our nation in uniform. The Department of Defense continues to seek new ways to reach out to employers, and is working hard to minimize the disruptions and hardships associated with reserve service.

At a time when we are calling reservists to active duty, we should all be grateful for the patriotism and support shown by their civilian employers-and we should remember that the increased reliance on the Guard and Reserve in the post- Cold War era has helped dictate the demise of the weekend warrior.

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