Reserves Critical to U.S. Military Capabilities, Petraeus Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2012 The reserve components are an integral part of the military in ways that Cold War planners could not have imagined, retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said at a Reserve Officers Association meeting here today.
The association inducted Petraeus, now CIA director, into its Minuteman Hall of Fame. Petraeus thanked the group, and said he accepts the honor on behalf of the men and women who so bravely served and sacrificed under his command in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Petraeus said the reserve components are more than the strategic reserve envisioned during the Cold War and have become an essential part of the U.S. military.
“Without our citizen-soldiers, our armed forces simply could not fully carry out America’s global commitments to keep our nation secure,” he said.
Reservists bring warrior and civilians skills to the fight, Petraeus said. “That combination has been particularly important in the complex environments we’ve been facing in the past decade,” he added.
Iraq and Afghanistan required more than just being warriors, he noted. “They needed diplomats, builders, trainers, advisors, service providers, economic developers and mediators,” he said. “Citizen-soldiers have performed these diverse tasks in particularly impressive fashion, and in so doing, they have demonstrated the unique edge, the unique quality that they bring to every military endeavor.”
The experiences that reservists bring from civilian life are particularly helpful in a counterinsurgency environment, Petraeus said, because they are used to working in a community to accomplish things. For example, he added, their civilian jobs make it possible for them to advise a nascent city council on how to set up departments. Also, he said, reservists serve as firefighters in their home communities can advise the best way to set up a fire department and how to train the people.
Petraeus recalled when he was appointed to head the training effort for the Iraqi military and police in 2004. “This was a particularly daunting task -- one that we described as building the world’s biggest aircraft, while in flight, while it’s being designed and while it’s being shot at,” he said.
Petraeus also had to build the Multinational Security Transition Command in Iraq. There was no existing headquarters for it, he said. “So we turned to the 98th Division (Institutional Training) and its more than 3,000 reservists based mostly in the northeastern United States,” he said, noting almost 1,000 members of the 98th, set up the headquarters and mentored Iraqi soldiers and police that first year.
Army Cpl. Eric DeHart is another example of reserve adaptability, the general said. DeHart, an Army Reserve engineer from Wisconsin, invented a device placed in culverts in Afghanistan that allowed water and debris to flow, but didn’t allow enemy fighters to plant improvised explosive devices.
“He even wrote a field manual on how to use it,” said Petraeus, noting that the device is still being used today and has saved countless lives.
Another reservist, Army Master Sgt. Juanita Milligan, is the mother of three and has deployed to Iraq twice. “She was gravely wounded during her second deployment to Iraq, when an improvised explosive device blasted into her Humvee,” the general said. “Seeing the bomb a split-second before it exploded, she jumped across the vehicle to pull her gunner out of the hatch and inside. He was OK, but she sustained severe injuries, including shrapnel throughout her body, the loss of part of her right arm and her femur broken in three places.”
Milligan went through numerous surgeries, therapy and the pain associated with regaining use of her hands. “Master Sergeant Milligan defines the selfless dedication of our citizen-soldiers -- a mother who twice answered the call to military duty, leaving family friends and community,” Petraeus said.
Some 385,000 reserve-component service members have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, with 30,000 reservists serving today. Since 1990, reservists has been called to serve in every contingency the United States has been involved in, from humanitarian missions and disaster relief to all-out war, Petraeus said.
“Today, reservists serve in more than 70 countries, demonstrating that our citizen-soldiers are not only a strategic reserve, but a key component of our operational forces,” he added.