WASHINGTON: The chairman of the Reserve Forces Policy Board sees this as “the golden age of the reserve component” as the active land forces and three components of the Air Force draw down personnel and the Defense Department’s new strategic guidance calls for maintaining a reserve component that is ready and available when needed. Arnold Punaro, who also chaired the congressionally-created Commission on the National Guard and Reserve, said the reserve components were a “true bargain for the taxpayer,” but warned attendees at a Washington conference that they needed “to think smarter, not richer” when looking at maintaining operational readiness. Speaking Jan. 31, Punaro added that the Defense Department through the policy board is trying to determine the true cost of the reserve components versus active. He said the commission’s earlier study found the reserve components were 70 to 75 percent less expensive than the active component. The retired Marine Corps Reserve major general also said that mobilized reservists were less expensive than their active counterparts because they are not drawing on the department’s infrastructure – housing, schools, child care centers, etc. “We’ve go to get at the bottom line” in determining actual costs, he said.
Vice Adm. Dirk Debbink, chief of the Navy Reserve, said as promising as the future may appear for his 64,000 officers and sailors that what was critical to know “what the Navy will value in the future … capability by capability.”
Punaro, also a former staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, advised the reserve component chiefs to find ways to better recruit service members leaving active service. “Make it transition, not separation” from active military service.
Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, chief of the Army Reserve, seconded that idea. He said he likes the Marine Corps model of recruiting and retention. “A Marine for Life” is effective in attracting and keeping good people. “We need to stop talking [in the Army] about getting out; talk about transition.” He added, “We need to make it easy to go back and forth” in a “continuum of service,” an idea he has pushed in his six years as head of the Army Reserve.
Debbink said his service calls it “Highway Navy” and now includes the Individual Ready Reserve, sailors who have completed their active service but have not joined a reserve unit as part of their obligated service. “We’ve set up a billet structure for the IRR, a first for us.”
He said that these sailors would report a few days per year and be paid for attending training sessions.
Stultz said that the Army’s reserve components need to be able to say to soldiers leaving active duty, “We’re going to help you find a job; we’re going to help you re-locate. Our intent is you’re never going to leave.”
John Grady was the longtime communications director for the Association of the U.S. Army