Reserve Forces Make Great Contributions, Leaders Say

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2006  - U.S. military reserve forces are better trained and at a higher state of readiness than they've ever been as they continue to take on their new operational role in the war on terror, senior reserve-component leaders said here today.

"We've all been to the battlefield; we've all been out to see our people, and I have to tell you, they are the best of the best. We have never had a fighting force like we have today," said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Lawrence W. Holland, senior enlisted advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs and chairman of the Senior Enlisted Advisory Council on Reserve Affairs.

After a meeting, several members of the council talked with American Forces Press Service about the new role their forces are facing in the long war against terrorism and how they are adapting.

Since the war on terror began, the reserve force has shifted from a strategic reserve, used intermittently for large-scale operations, to an operational force that is continually deploying and an integral part of the total force, said Marine Sgt. Maj. Joseph A. Staudt, Marine Corps Reserve senior enlisted advisor. This shift has naturally affected an all-volunteer force that still has to fulfill its peacetime mission while supporting the war on terror, Staudt said. But all the leaders agreed that their troops are performing well.

"Our Marines, as well as our other services, continue to do a great job fighting the war," he said. "Our Marines that go to Iraq and Afghanistan are right alongside their active-duty counterparts and taking it to the enemy every day and doing their part."

A common issue for all reserve components is the high tempo of operations and predictability of deployments, the leaders said. Another important issue for reservists is pay and personnel systems, the leaders said. The services have been working on establishing a common system for active-duty and reserve forces to make transitions smoother from activation to demobilization, Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Richard Smith, senior enlisted advisor for the Air National Guard, said.

Navy Master Chief Petty Officer David Pennington, senior enlisted advisor to the Navy Reserve, said he often sees reservists not receiving enough compensation for costs incurred during activation or training. As more bases are closed under the base realignment and closure program, naval reservists have to drive farther for drill training and have to do more electronic classes, taking time and money from their personal lives, he said. "We ask our folks to do a lot. They spend a lot of their own personal time doing Navy stuff, and there's no compensation at all for that," Pennington said. "We have to figure out a way to compensate our folks to get back and forth from work."

Around the world, reservists are working alongside active-duty servicemembers and are performing essential roles in the war on terror, the leaders said. Leaders of the active component continually say their missions would be impossible to complete without the reserve force, they said.

"There's been a lot of ups and downs within the reserve components, and I think there's a lot of time where we've wondered, as reservists, what our value is, what our contribution is, and has that been valued by our counterparts," said Coast Guard Master Chief Petty Officer Jeffrey D. Smith, senior enlisted advisor for the Coast Guard Reserve. "I don't think there's any doubt now. Folks are recognizing the contribution of our reserve components, right along with our active-duty components."

The Senior Enlisted Advisory Council for Reserve Affairs meets regularly and works on issues for reservists and families, always looking ahead to the future, Holland said. "What we're working on today will not affect any one of us sitting around this table, but it will affect our people in our services and those things are very important," he said.