Issue Date: September 06, 2004
Busy outlook for reservists
Year-plus overseas deployments here to stay, DoD says
By Vince Crawley
Times staff writer
The Pentagon is conducting a massive review of how best to use reserve and National Guard forces, but defense officials say one thing is already clear: They expect hundreds of thousands of reservists to be deployed overseas for years to come.
Also, in a separate report, the Rand think tank says reserve and Guard personnel would make up most of the people in missile-defense units scheduled to start operations in September.
In a Pentagon-funded study, Rand also looked at the roles reservists could play in alleviating active-duty manning shortages, homeland security and small-scale peacekeeping and contingency operations.
As of Aug. 25, some 161,646 reserve and Guard troops were on active duty for ongoing military operations, and they make up about 40 percent of U.S. troops deployed in Iraq.
That pace is not expected to slack off anytime soon, according to the Pentagon’s final report on its so-called “rebalancing” effort, aimed at ensuring the best mix between active-duty and reserve personnel and missions.
“The steady state of the next three to five years will find reserve components supporting operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and other … operations with a total of about 100,000 to 150,000 personnel,” says the report, prepared by the Pentagon’s Office of Reserve Affairs. “Mobilizations of up to one year or more will be the norm for reserve component members during the next three to five years.”
Defense personnel chiefs have said shifting troops between the active and reserve forces can help lessen the burdens of overseas deployments, but the Pentagon report says relatively few jobs would be affected.
“Those areas where force rebalancing may be necessary are few — we estimate only about 10 to 12 percent of the force — and are concentrated in select career fields,” the report says.
The Navy and Marine Corps are seeking to minimize involuntary mobilizations by adding 7,200 active-duty and 1,800 reserve jobs specializing in antiterrorism and force protection, mainly for ship and port security.
These shifts would allow the Navy and Marine Corps to meet all current force-protection requirements as well as sustain themselves for 60 days at the higher threat level of Force Protection Condition “C”.
The Navy began creating more security positions after the Oct. 12, 2000, terrorist attack on the destroyer Cole in Yemen. Nearly 4,500 active and 2,300 reserve sailors have been converted to security duties.
In addition, 525 reserve corpsman positions — medics assigned to Marine units — are being converted to active-duty billets, and the Navy is writing new contracts with medical reservists allowing for more flexible drilling requirements.
The Navy also is seeking to build a database of reservists who would volunteer to be among the first called up.
Meanwhile, the Army is shifting the career specialties of tens of thousands of reservists. In 2003 and 2004, the Army has converted 3,000 reserve positions to such high-demand jobs as civil affairs, special operations and military police. Another 2,000 National Guard artillery jobs are being converted to military police.
About 4,000 more positions are scheduled for conversion starting in fiscal 2005. Further into the future, the conversion of heavy combat forces to lighter, more mobile units could affect 80,000 positions.
The Air Force already relies on reserve volunteers for up to 25 percent of its deployment capability.
The Air Force has had to rely on Army National Guardsmen for security at some air bases, but has added 500 civilian and 400 contractor guards this year and plans to convert 2,700 military positions to security duties in future years.
Defending the nation against long-range missile threats is a job that could fall increasingly on reserve and Guard forces, according to the new Rand report.
The ground-based midcourse missile-defense system is due to start initial operations by the end of September. This system includes interceptor fields at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., as well as early-warning radar at Shemya, Alaska, and fire-direction centers at Fort Greely, Vandenberg and Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
The initial site, focused on missile approaches to the western United States from Asia, is staffed by 295 Army National Guardsmen and 14 active-duty soldiers, as well as 346 civilian employees and contractors.
That would include us....11H to MP in '05. I am sure that we'll probably do at least another year-long deployment in the remaining years til I get my 20 year letter........the guys from our unit who are just now wrapping up their second year at the USAF bases will probably come back, get retrained and find themselves redeployed before they even settle back into anything resembling a normal life....unless they decide to go Blue, which is likely for some of them.