Army Reserve Looks Forward to Further Transformation on 100th Anniversary
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 22, 2008 After undergoing a century of change, the Army Reserve is now in the midst of its biggest transformation, the component’s chief said.
Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz characterized the first 100 years of the Army Reserve as a metamorphosis from an Army medical reserve corps to a strategic force and toward an operational force. The future of the service, however, will usher in an ever-greater period of transformation, he said.
“Throughout the 100 years, as the Army has changed, the Army Reserve has changed,” he said. “Most significantly, I would say, is after Sept. 11, after we’ve gotten into an extended conflict in the war on terror, the Army Reserve is in the midst of the biggest transformation we’ve ever had.”
To illustrate the current state of flux, Stultz recalled the differences between now and his early days in the reserves. “When I first entered the Army Reserve (after) leaving the active duty in 1979, our mantra was: ‘One weekend a month, two weeks in the summer -- that’s all we ask,” he said.
“(But) our mantra right now is: When called upon, you’re expected to mobilize, deploy and defend your nation,” he said. “And if you’re a member of the Army Reserve then it will occur during your career, and it will occur in multiple locations.”
The Army Reserve of today is engaged with the combat force on an “extended basis” in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world where U.S. operations are ongoing.
“Now (the Army Reserve’s) combat support, service support has to be mobilized on an extended or persistent basis,” he said. “That means the Army Reserve is no longer strategic; it’s operational.”
Reserve members’ adaptation is a good news story, Stultz said, because the corps is consolidated into a more committed force that is more prepared, capable and willing to deploy.
“We have grown from 188,000 this time last year, to right now 195,000,” he said. “We’ve increased end strength by 4,000 this fiscal year already, but we’re doing with the people who say, ‘I know what I’m getting into.’”
The reserve chief’s comments were echoed by his senior enlisted advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Leon Caffie. The transformed force is endowed with training, leadership and skills comparable to the active-duty component, Caffie told American Forces Press Service.
Caffie said he was impressed by the quality of reservists he met over the holidays in Afghanistan and Iraq and during a massive reenlistment ceremony in Iraq in which he participated in January.
“You can go to the theater … and you can’t distinguish between the active-duty, National Guard or Army Reserve soldiers because that skill set and that quality is so much higher (than in the past),” he said.
The top reserve officer and enlisted member agree that the reserve’s turning point came in the early 1990s, when Army Reserve soldiers started being mobilized into operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Caffie said the operations revealed an Army Reserve that was ill-equipped, poorly trained and insufficiently led.
“We had created this strategic force that was really not relevant at all. You had a bunch of numbers, but as far as training and capability, performance at that level wasn’t expected,” he said. “That changed drastically when the Army Reserve as a whole went from a strategic force to an operational force, and you have seen a significant change in how we do stuff as Army Reserve soldiers.”
In a dramatic departure from the “summer camp” era, today’s reservists have been deployed up to four times, Caffie said. Others have made significant personal sacrifices by deploying for a year at a time, he said.
“The combat experience of Army Reserve soldiers is phenomenal,” he said. “Today’s Army Reserve force is by far the best-led, -skilled and -equipped Army Reserve I have ever been associated with.”