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Army Reserve Duty Has 'Changed Forever'

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2002 – Since Sept. 11, the nation's Army Reserve forces are mobilizing faster than ever before, according to the chief of the Army Reserve.

"This Army Reserve will never be the same again," Lt. Gen. Thomas J. Plewes told several hundred military officers at the Reserve Officer Association mid-winter conference here. At present, 12,000 Army Reserves and 21,400 National Guard are on duty in 50 countries around the world.

"Missions that we had only given lip service to are now essential missions," the general noted. "The timing of our call ups, (and) the expectations of the American people as to what the Army Reserve needs to do and how it has to do it, have changed forever."

Before Sept. 11, the general said, the Army Reserve focused on unit and people readiness, job specialty qualification, training programs, equipment readiness and deployments. "We had no idea what our role was in homeland security," he noted. "We didn't know what 'hasty mobilization' meant. 'Threat Condition' didn't figure heavily in our lexicon."

The role of the reserve components has changed dramatically, the general said. In Vietnam, the military only called up 3,000 reservists. In the aftermath, however, Army Gen. Creighton W. Abrams enunciated the Abrams Doctrine which essentially said, 'You're not going to go to war again without calling up the spirit of the American people and you do that by calling up the National Guard and Reserve.'

In Desert Storm, the nation called up 135,000 reservists. "They couldn't do it without us and we were there and we were successful," Plewes said. "We established a new basis for where we moved in the future."

Now, the Army Reserve is learning first hand what force protection means in terms of threat conditions, he said. Today, more than 800 Army Reserve soldiers are on duty doing force protection work. They're also learning what 'hasty mobilization' means.

Before Desert Storm, he said, the Reserves were satisfied with the capability of calling up soldiers in 30, 60, 90 or 180 days, depending upon how soon they had to be in the Cold War battle. After Desert Storm, Army Reserve officials knew they had to be able to get in faster 10 days for highest priority units, and 30 or 60 days for other organizations.

After Sept. 11, we began looking at models that said it had to be from 24 hours to 10 days," Plewes said. "The way we did business just doesn't work anymore."

Mobilization procedures that were "thrown out the window" following the terrorist attack are now being "truncated," Plewes said. In the past, when soldiers were called up to go to Bosnia, Kosovo or East Timor, they had time to get ready to go 10 days at home stations, then they went to a mobilization to be certified and validated.

In Desert Storm it took six months to deploy 84,000 Reserve service members, he noted. Reserve personnel were on the scene immediately after the Sept. 11 attack, and it took four days to put 2,500 Reserves on duty.

"That's a real challenge for the Reserves," Plewes said. "The National Guard in its state missions has been doing that for years, but we're part of the federal force. Bringing a federal force to emergencies so quickly is really not something that the Army has been doing."

Today, he stressed, maintaining readiness is not an "occasional thing, but a constant thing." At present, he said, about half of the Army Reserve military intelligences forces and military police are employed.

The response from both Reservists and employers has been fantastic, the general noted. During Desert Storm, he said, between 15 and 25 percent of the units were unable to deploy due to health or family reasons.

"This time around, the number is five to 10 percent," he said.

Army Reserve units have had practice preparing for deployments. About 15,000 Reserve soldiers were mobilized for Bosnia and Kosovo. Reserve officials have focused on readiness, family plans and employer support.

"This has paid great dividends," Plewes said. "We are much more ready in terms of unit deployability than we were in the past.

Since Sept. 11, he said, there "has been a tremendous outpouring of employer support."

"We've had good employer support for Bosnia and Kosovo. I don't want to diminish that. But this time around, we have many more employers, both public and private, who are matching the salaries -- or continuing the salaries if a military salary is significantly less of their employees."

The war against terrorism "is close to home" and employers recognize it's directly in company interests to support the military.

"There's been a real heartening response on the part of employers. During Desert Storm, we had a tremendous problem with universities. They wouldn't give people credit or their money back, even when it was only one or two weeks into the semester. This time, we've had no problems with universities. They've given money back and in some cases, they've forgiven courses toward a degree."

The war on terrorism has also caused a rise in recruiting particularly among 'prior service' people who have already served on active duty or in the reserves.

"There's something going on that they want to be part of," Plewes explained. "Prior service people make up most of the increase in our recruiting numbers, but we're meeting our objectives in non-prior service as well."

Three years ago, Plewes noted, the Army Reserve fell short 10,000 recruits. Last year, they surpassed the recruiting goal by 102 percent because of the rush to the recruiting stations immediately after the Sept. 11 attack.

"Young people are finding it a good thing to do to join the Army Reserve," the general said. "Certainly, the economy has something to do with that, but there is a very strong feeling growing among young people now that they want to get back into serving their country."

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