Military News

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Army Reserve Focuses On Balancing Ranks, Specialties

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 20, 2009 - Satisfied that it's increased its ranks by about 20,000 soldiers and continues to meet its recruiting goals, the Army Reserve now is focused on recruiting more troops as they leave active duty to fill gaps at the mid-level ranks and in specific specialties. Army Brig. Gen. Leslie A. Purser, the Army Reserve's deputy chief, praises recruiters and Army Reserve soldiers whose efforts enabled the Army Reserve to boost its numbers from about 185,00 to the current 206,000 in recent years.

The problem, she said, is that the force is bottom-heavy, particularly at the E-1 to E-4 ranks, but has shortages among mid-level commissioned and noncommissioned officers. The Army Reserve is short about 10,000 captains and majors, but has too many lieutenant colonels and colonels. Meanwhile, it's been able to fill only 54 percent of its sergeant first class billets.

Equally troubling, the Army Reserve has too many soldiers in some specialties and too few in others. It's currently at 170 percent strength for chaplain assistants, but has big gaps among wheeled-vehicle mechanics and, ironically, retention NCOs.

Army Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, the Army Reserve chief, summed up the problem during the Association of the U.S. Army's annual meeting in October.

"We have 208,000 [soldiers], but it's not the right 208,000," he said. "It's not in the right rank, in the right [specialties], in the right location."

Stultz has charged Purser to come up with a campaign plan to balance and man the force.

"We need to figure out ways to get more precise," Purser said. "We have to look more closely at the really significant shortfalls, and not just go for blanket numbers."

The reshaping effort is focusing on several fronts. The Army Reserve is seeking more prior-service recruits. It's targeting slightly older recruits who bring more experience than most 18-year-olds. And it plans to offer incentives so soldiers in over-strength occupational specialties will retrain into those experiencing shortfalls.

Purser said she's working closely with the Army's accessions and recruiting commands to ensure recruiters know what the Army Reserve is looking for – and what it's not.

"She must get very precise and tell them what the Army Reserve needs," Stultz explained, using Army shorthand for unit supply specialists as an example. "No more 92 Yankees in this location, only in that location," she said, "and no more chaplain assistants." Then, she added, she has to figure out how to give chaplain assistants incentive to become military police.

A central front in the reshaping plan is the network of points at which active-duty soldiers begin the process of transitioning from active duty to civilian life. The Army Reserve plans to take a tip from the National Guard's playbook, assigning recruiters directly to transition points, where they can pitch the Army Reserve to troops still on active duty.

"We need to reach these guys as early out as we can, ... to make sure they understand the opportunities that we have," Purser said. "The idea is to get there and talk with them early enough to encourage them to come over to the Reserve side so they can continue to reap the benefits [of military service], ... rather than have them stop completely when they get off active duty."

One big selling point the Army Reserve hopes to benefit from is the Employer Partnership Initiative. The program links Army reservists with civilian job opportunities in their military career field, and with employers who recognize and support their Army Reserve obligations. So far, more than 700 companies have signed on, Purser said, eager to recruit workers who bring the skills, discipline and leadership they've developed in the military.

Stultz said he sees the program as a way to help the Army Reserve achieve the balance it needs.

"We've got plenty of [employer] partners," he said. "So we must get scientific about finding companies with opportunities we can fill with our soldiers or future soldiers. We're satisfying corporate America, and we're satisfying our needs."

At the same time, recognizing that some soldiers leave active duty because they've grown deployment-weary, the Army Reserve is taking the novel step of guaranteeing more "dwell time" at home between deployments for some prior-service recruits.

"We have incentivized these active-component guys, saying we will guarantee a two-year dwell, at least, before they have to go again," Purser said. "Even if they go to a unit that is scheduled to deploy, the Army Reserve will honor that commitment."

That's a guarantee even the Individual Ready Reserve can't offer, she said.

Stultz calls these efforts part of a precise human capital strategy that will ensure the Army Reserve has the right people with the right skills in the right units at the right time.

"As we look ahead," he said, "we know that building the right force is crucial for success."

Gates Urges More Western Hemisphere Cooperation

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Nov. 20, 2009 - The United States and other Western Hemisphere nations must increase cooperation and collaboration for their continued security, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today. Gates addressed defense leaders from around the world at the Halifax International Security Forum.

Noting that the challenges facing Western Hemisphere nations have changed since the end of the Cold War -- a period of tension that inspired the United States and Canada to establish the North American Aerospace Defense Command -- Gates said he wants the United States and Canada to build on this legacy of cooperation and interoperability to face the challenges of new threats.

"This engagement and this partnership are so necessary because the emerging security challenges we face are increasingly interconnected, and the nontraditional threats require a collective approach," Gates said.

And it requires more than simple defense cooperation, the secretary said. Threats such as drug trafficking, terrorism, smuggling and others require "an uncommon degree of coordination among the national-security, homeland-defense and criminal-justice agencies of our governments," the secretary said.

The nations are working together more closely. In 2006, Canada and the United States agreed to expand the NORAD mission to include maritime warning. The two nations also signed a new emergency management cooperation agreement in December, and the U.S. military is prepared – at Canada's request – to assist the nation as it hosts the Winter Olympics early next year.

One area where cooperation is needed is in the Arctic, as global warming has increased access to the normally ice-bound region. While there are disagreements – Canada asserts that the Northwest Passage is in Canadian waters, and the United States and Western European nations say it is an international waterway – there are areas of cooperation.

"We share an interest in developing more icebreaking ships for mobility and improving domain awareness to support search-and-rescue operations in light of increased tourism up north," Gates said.

Russia, Canada, Norway, Demark and the United States have claims on parts of the Arctic. "Even as the U.S. 'resets' relations with Russia, we will work with Canada to ensure that increased Russian activity in the Arctic does not lead to miscalculation or unnecessary friction," Gates said.

The nations of the hemisphere have to band together to handle natural or man-made disasters, Gates said, noting recent examples of that cooperation. Canada and Mexico assisted New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. The United States assisted Haiti last year after Hurricane Ike hit the island nation, and helped El Salvador last month after rainstorms caused mudslides in that Latin American nation.

Global warming could cause more frequent and intense storms, Gates said, and the Defense Department's Quadrennial Defense Review will examine how the U.S. armed forces can respond to such natural disasters. But man can be the biggest threat, he added, and the nexus of drug trafficking and terrorism poses a danger to both the United States and Canada.

"The same means and routes used to transport drugs could also be used for dangerous weapons and materials," Gates said. Smugglers have used semi-submersible vessels that can carry tons of drugs and are difficult to detect, he said.

The terrorist group known as FARC has used ungoverned areas of Colombia to grow and refine drugs, and must be met with the force of law, Gates said. "We cannot expect to make headway on narcotics without a multifaceted, multinational comprehensive approach to the problem," he said. "We need to work together to fortify judicial institutions and the rule of law."

Gates emphasized that this must be accomplished in ways respectful of human rights. Police in many countries often are outgunned by their adversaries, and military forces have stepped in. Colombia and Mexico are working to instruct soldiers in how to defeat the enemy while respecting the rights of the people, the secretary said.

Gates also stressed that the military should not be the lead agency in confronting many of the threats in the Western Hemisphere.

"It is important to keep front and center that the military is in a supporting – not a lead – role in dealing with most of the problems," he said, though he acknowledged that in some situations, only the military can provide the manpower, logistics, transportation or expertise to handle crises or threats.

Through increased cooperation and collaboration, the secretary said, Western Hemisphere nations must address these issues before they find themselves working through them at a disaster site.

Mullen Sees Operational Structure in Guard's Future

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
Special to American Forces Press Service

Nov. 20, 2009 - The National Guard's transformation from a strategic reserve to an operational force since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, should continue beyond the current conflicts, the nation's top military officer told Guard leaders yesterday. As operations in Iraq and Afghanistan change over the next few years, the Guard should not be allowed to revert to being simply a strategic reserve, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an audience at the National Guard's Joint Senior Leadership Conference at the National Harbor.

"Without leadership, we will snap back in too many areas to the way it was," Mullen said. "So we have to look to the future and lead to the future, taking advantage of who we are, what we've become and what we think those challenges will be."

Mullen said he's considering what the military's force structure should look like after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I've started to ask the question, 'Well, what's after Iraq and Afghanistan?'" the chairman said. "What does the force look like? How do we make sure that the lessons that we've learned, the best combat force we have ever fielded, ... how do we make sure we retain the right individuals, how do we train them? How do we educate them? And what does it look like, and particularly on the Guard side, what does it look like in the future?"

Mullen said he foresees some sort of strategic reserve, but that the operational structure needs to be in place as well.

"I believe we should have some level of strategic reserve," he said. "And yet, we have to have an operational response that keeps that strategic reserve healthy, tied to a training regimen and a preparation regimen that takes advantage of who we are and who we've become in these two wars and looks to a future that leverages that in preparation for what might be coming down the road."

That does not mean a return to how things were before 2001, he said,

"As we look to a future ... where the deployments aren't as high as they are right now, the one thing I don't want to do is ... reset to 2000," he said.

Mullen said the transition in the Guard has been "absolutely spectacular."

"I've seen an awful lot of troops in theater ... who ... unless somebody told me they were in the Guard or the Reserve or active, I couldn't tell," he said, "because in the fight, everybody is the same: side by side, shoulder to shoulder and making such a difference."

Mullen said maintaining that high level of readiness in the future comes down to leadership.

"Leading in a time of change – if you've spent any time in leadership – is the hardest kind of leadership there is," he said. "And it is leadership that has been very well executed here, and will need to be in the future."

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy serves at the National Guard Bureau.)