Commentary: Army Reserve Celebrates 100 Years of Constants and Change
By Army Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 23, 2008 The Army Reserve’s 100th anniversary acknowledges our nation’s enduring need for such a force, and it gives us an opportunity to recognize the contributions of hundreds of thousands of men and women who sustained the organization for a century.
Further, this anniversary recognizes that the force has changed over 100 years from a small reserve force of about 160 medical professionals into a much more capable force that provided all types of combat-arms, combat-support and combat-service-support capabilities to what it is today: a CS/CSS-focused operational, expeditionary, and domestic force that is an essential piece of the Army.
What hasn’t changed in 100 years is the commitment, selfless service, and personal courage of our men and women who voluntarily put their lives on hold – and on the line – to defend our country and our freedoms.
Since terrorists slammed hijacked airliners into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11, 2001, more than 182,000 Army Reserve soldiers have mobilized to serve in Iraq, Afghanistan and more than a dozen other countries. Today, about 23,000 Army Reserve soldiers serve on active duty in support of the war on terrorism. About 17,000 serve overseas, while another 6,000 support homeland defense missions at training centers, mobilization sites, and medical centers. About 15,000 serve in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Three Army Reserve soldiers have earned the Silver Star Medal for valor in action:
-- Spc. Jeremy Church, April 9, 2004;
-- Sgt. James Witkowski, Oct. 26, 2005; and
-- Staff Sgt. Jason Fetty, Oct. 15, 2007.
Today, I lead 205,000 heroes, and I see those heroes step up every day to serve our nation. Our Army Reserve soldiers are part of the next greatest generation of Americans who have served their nation in the military.
The Army Reserve I joined was a strategic reserve, a source of manpower should our nation need us. We were not highly trained, we were not well equipped, we were not ready to deploy immediately, but the Army knew our numbers and our locations.
Our expectation was to devote one weekend a month and two weeks each summer to soldiering. The men and women in my unit didn’t expect to be called up unless World War III broke out and the Russians were coming across the Fulda Gap – and we never thought that would happen.
Today, as we mark our 100th anniversary, our transformation to an operational force continues. It has resulted in the most dramatic changes to Army Reserve structure, training and readiness since World War II.
The days when Army Reserve soldiers committed one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer to soldiering duties are gone. The “weekend warrior” is no more.
Today’s Army Reserve is no longer a strategic reserve; instead, it is an operational force and an integral part of the world's greatest Army. Today’s units are prepared and available to deploy with a full complement of trained soldiers and equipment when the nation calls. Today’s Army Reserve soldier is a member of the best trained, best led, and best equipped fighting force our nation has ever fielded.
As we continue to adjust to current needs, we support other enduring missions at home and around the globe.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the Army Reserve provided institutional support to the Army. Our units provided trainers on annual training to expand the capability of training bases to deal with the annual summer surge of young men and women who graduated from high school and entered basic and advanced training. At the same time, Army Reserve medical professionals augmented the capabilities of Army hospitals and clinics at home during their two-week “summer camp.”
Although today’s Army Reserve continues to supplement the institutional base, trainers who once expanded training-base staffs now instruct members of the Iraqi and Afghan armies. In 2006, for example, Army Reserve mobile training teams developed and executed a program of instruction to train Afghan National Army noncommissioned officers.
Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who once merely augmented military hospitals in the states now command the hospitals in our war zones. In August, Army Reserve Maj. Gen. Ron Silverman completed a year as commander of all medical troops in Iraq, the first major general to command echelons above division level medical forces in a combat zone in the history of the U.S. Army. Today, one Army Reserve combat support hospital serves in Iraq, and another is ready to deploy there in the spring.
Throughout its century of existence, the Army Reserve has answered the nation’s call to serve during times of emergency, both in war and in peace. The biggest deployment of Army Reserve soldiers overseas since the Korean War took place during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-1991. Almost 84,000 Army Reserve soldiers and 647 units answered our country’s call. Thousands of Army Reserve soldiers have served in the Balkans to conduct peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, and later in Kosovo, since 1995.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks on our nation, the men and women of the Army Reserve have served on the front lines of the war on terror abroad and at home. Units and individual soldiers responded immediately and performed a variety of missions that supported rescue and recovery operations and secured federal facilities across the country.
Peacetime emergencies have included a variety of disaster relief and humanitarian operations at home and abroad. In 1997, Army Reserve soldiers fought a flood, a dam break and a typhoon. Two years later, thousands of Army Reserve soldiers participated in the Central America relief effort that followed Hurricane Mitch.
In 2004, the Army Reserve supported Hurricane Katrina recovery operations by providing all of the CH-47 aircraft support, two truck companies and more than 90 vehicles. The following year, when a magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck Pakistan and killed 86,000 people, injured 69,000 and left an estimated 4 million homeless, Company B, 7th Battalion, 158th Regiment mobilized in less than 30 days to provide relief. The unit’s Chinooks logged more than 2,000 flying hours and moved more than 5,000 passengers.
Today, the Army Reserve remains the Title 10 first-responder to support civil authorities during a domestic emergency. It provides 2/3 of the Defense Department’s rapid response capabilities and is prepared to deploy to conduct chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive consequence management operations in support of U.S. Northern Command or the lead federal agency at the incident site.
To a lesser extent, Army Reserve soldiers provided a forward-deployed presence when their units participated in exercises in Europe and Korea and other countries or security cooperation operations in Central and South American countries.
Today, Army Reserve soldiers are continuously deployed to more than 20 countries around the world, and indicators point to increased Army Reserve requirements in Africa, especially now that U.S. Africa Command has been established.
Throughout the history of the force, Army Reserve soldiers who served our nation brought with them unique added values. When Army Reserve units mobilize, during both war and peacetime, they bring significant support and concern from communities with them. Like our National Guard counterparts, Army Reserve soldiers provide an enduring connection between the military and local communities across our nation.
At the same time, each time Army Reserve soldiers deploy overseas, they bring part of America with them. They also often deliver the best of America to the children of that country as they demonstrate our country’s generosity and concern for them and people in other nations around the world.
A case in point is a small town in Kosovo, where our civil affairs soldiers worked with the Virginia National Guard to completely renovate a soccer and basketball court and build a classroom and conference building. The soldiers acquired donated computers so the children can study English and other subjects. The local city council meets in the conference room, and the building has become one of the centerpieces of this small town.
Things like this happen when reserve component soldiers who have experience in civilian life, and who know how to make things happen and how to make things work, tackle a mission. They bring an added value, a different dimension, to the fight, and they leave a little bit of America behind everywhere they go.
Another constant is the value of civilian-acquired skills Army Reserve soldiers bring to help make the U.S. Army the most powerful and sophisticated military force in the world. Often, these skills are unrelated to their normal military duties. For instance, a military policeman who is a teacher at home may be exactly the right soldier to help train Iraqi policemen. His civilian-acquired skills help him understand how people learn, how to teach, and how to interact with people and motivate them to learn.
During our first 100 years, we were characterized as “citizen-soldiers.” When Army Reserve soldiers wore combat patches, they were typically from active duty units the soldiers had served with in Vietnam. Today’s Army Reserve soldiers are warrior-citizens. They are warriors who fight for our nation, and they are also citizens, but their involvement in military operations has been tremendously expanded.
Today, we see evidence of their involvement in the combat patches worn by soldiers who served on active duty with their Army Reserve units. We see it in the reserve-unit patches worn by active-component soldiers who served in combat under a reserve headquarters.
Young men and women serve in today’s Army Reserve because they want to defend our country. They fully expect that they will be called upon – on a regular basis – to do just that. They know they must maintain a high state of readiness, both physically and mentally. They know they will be asked to make great sacrifices – to leave their families and their civilian jobs – to serve our nation.
Today’s Army Reserve soldiers represent the values upon which our country was founded. They are citizens who are willing to lay down their plows and pick up their rifles when called upon. They’re proud of their service. They’re proud to say they’re part of the Army Reserve.
(Army Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz is chief of the U.S. Army Reserve.)