October 18, 2004
Last untapped Reserve grunts to head to Iraq
But wartime pace hasn’t hurt retention
By Christian Lowe
Times staff writer
The last Marine Reserve infantry battalion to be activated was given its warning order Oct. 7 for a deployment to Iraq.
The leathernecks of 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, headquartered in Brook Park, Ohio, saw thousands of its fellow Reserve grunts deploy to Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti and other war zones while they stood by for more than three years.
Now, it’s their turn.
Although the mission for the battalion is not yet clear, the unit is due to deploy to Iraq by the beginning of 2005, a Reserve spokesman said.
However, the activation puts the Reserve in a bit of a dilemma.
As the last untapped infantry battalion, the 3/25 deployment leaves Marine Forces Reserve without fresh infantry resources.
Although the command has beefed up other battalions with volunteers and even created provisional units to fill in for some of the missions usually done by infantrymen, the Reserve nevertheless must adhere to rules set out in the Pentagon’s partial mobilization order, which limits mobilization lengths for reservists to 24 months.
By sticking to the Corps’ seven-month deployment schedule to Iraq, for example, and allowing at least 12 months at home before another mobilization, Lt. Gen. Dennis McCarthy, Marine Forces Reserve commander, believes he can sustain the current pace of activations without bumping up against the Pentagon’s service limits.
“I believe we can manage this in such a way that by mobilizing people once … [and] giving them a sufficient time of at least a year or more to regroup in the United States and then to be remobilized a second time, we can sustain this effort for a considerable period of time,” McCarthy said in an Oct. 7 interview.
And although the tempo of operations for reservists has been intense, the Reserve is still filling the ranks. The force met its recruitment goals in fiscal 2004, bringing in 6,165 new Marine reservists well before the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.
Retention hasn’t been a problem either; the force retained nearly 100 more reservists in drilling units than the 39,600 needed for the Selected Marine Corps Reserve, Reserve officials said.
The statistics stand in sharp contrast to a recent Pentagon survey, which showed only 44 percent of Marine reservists who recently participated in Iraq operations intended to stay in the force. However, McCarthy said his own internal survey conducted as reservists returned home from occupation duty showed about 77 percent intend to stay.
McCarthy added that the Reserve is a force largely populated by first-term Marines, with prior service or career-force leathernecks filling only 30 percent of its ranks.
Spousal support declines
The Pentagon survey, conducted regularly as a morale benchmark across the services, describes sharp declines in such “leading indicators” as reservists’ desire to stay in uniform, satisfaction with military life and personal and unit readiness throughout the Guard and Reserve forces.
The survey, which was done in May by the Defense Manpower Data Center, found a significant decline in spousal support for participation in the Reserve among Iraq-vet families.
Only 50 percent of spouses and “significant others” supported their Marine’s further participation in the Reserve after Iraq duty, while 70 percent of those whose Marine did not deploy to Iraq supported continued participation in the Reserve.
While not commenting directly on the Pentagon survey, McCarthy did say that maintaining family support for Reserve Marines is a top priority.
“It’s the danger that has families concerned, and I understand that,” McCarthy said.
“We’re continuing to emphasize as a matter of highest priority” the Reserve’s family-related support programs. “We are pulling out all the stops … to support families of Marines,” he said.
"Last untapped Reserve grunts to head to Iraq"
I don't like the way that is written. Hey I'll go Damn let me go back to the sand box. If they don't worry about my age and weight. I've been out since 1991 but I'll go hell.