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Reserve Overview

By Maj. Donna Miles, USAR
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3, 1997 – During the past year, more than 10,000 members of the Guard and Reserve have been called to active duty to support the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, and Defense Department officials say that number is likely to increase in the months ahead. They point to Operation Joint Endeavor as a textbook example of the critical role the reserve components play in U.S. military operations.

"We do not conduct any significant mission anywhere in the world today without the reserve forces," Secretary of Defense William Perry said as he wrapped up an around-the-world trip that included a Thanksgiving Day visit with troops in Bosnia. "This particular mission draws heavily on the reserves because the concentration of our civil-military capability is in the reserve forces."

In Bosnia, reserve component members have carried out the brunt of the civil affairs mission and provided much of the medical, military police, psychological operations, transportation, logistics, intelligence and public affairs support. Many Guard and Reserve members have served in Bosnia or the surrounding areas; others have carried out support roles, and replaced deployed active-duty forces in Germany and the United States.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Deborah Lee said the Bosnia mission demonstrates "the reserves have really come of age. And they are more essential now, today, to the total force than they everwere before."

She said the concept of the "total force" has been talked about for years. "But I think that now active duty commanders have come to view it as ground truth," she said. "They are becoming more and more familiar with reserve capabilities than they ever have been before. They realize that the idea of a total force has moved beyond the theoretical and has become a reality, and a practicality in the defense business."

That wasn't always the case. Lee said she remembers the climate when she was first named the defense secretary's top reserve adviser."One of the big issues and concerns at the time was access to the reservecomponents. Meaning, could the president really call them up? Would we getenough volunteers if we needed volunteers for duty? Could we really askpeople to go for three or four weeks of annual training, vice two weeks,for joint exercises?"

Four years later, Lee said those questions have all been answered yes. "I do not hear from our leaders anymore about concerns on access," she said. "The reason, I think, is that the president has called up the reserves when he has been advised to do so. We have gotten superb volunteerism when we've needed to do so. And the reserves have in fact made themselvesavailable for longer, short-duration exercises."

With high-profile missions during the past four years in Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia, the reserve components "have been there, and they've performed superbly," Lee said.

But while the Guard and Reserve have become a key factor indefense planning, Lee said every effort is being made to ensure no unitsor individuals are called on to carry out more than their fair share ofmissions.

"My notion has always been that we must not call reserve units in back-to-back years, if we can help it," she said. "For example, we do not anticipate mobilizing units for Bosnia if they were already called to Haiti.

"Now there may be individuals who were in both Haiti and Bosnia, perhaps because they volunteered, or perhaps because they changed units.But there should be no units that are called to both missions."

Lee said now that a third rotation of reserve component memberscould be mobilized for the Bosnia mission, that’s becoming more of aproblem.

Most of the units that have been called to active duty so far to support Operation Joint Endeavor have come from the Army Reserve. So Leesaid an effort will now be made to use more Army National Guard units,when possible.

"It's an effort to spread the work around to a larger number of units in order not to tax any single unit or units too much," she said.

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