Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Reserve Chief on Retaining Reserve Soldiers

Recently LTG Stultz the chief of the Army Reserve has championed the idea that retaining soldiers in the Army Reserve is a idea that has increased importance to our defense posture. With the change to an operational Reserve, the reduced transition times for citizen soldiers and the increased skill set required from Reserve units – retention of soldiers who have experienced the lessons of combat becomes even more critical. This issue of retention becomes extremely important to a military's force structure and effectiveness and has traditionally been of minor importance when peacetime demands provided no incentive to keep soldiers in uniform for extended periods. LTG Stultz has provided some new ideas as well as previously attempted but failed offerings for retaining Reserve soldiers.

As he is quoted here from a recent article by American Force Press Service Army Reserve Chief Applies Business Lessons to Military Force By Donna Miles; he offers some new and old concepts – some notes on each…

He likes the concept of a “continuum of service” that would enable soldiers to move between the active and reserve component during their military careers. This would enable soldiers to continuing serving as their life situation changes.

This concept is a good one – the vehicle for going from Reserves to Active Component has been virtually impossible or non-existent in the past – what better way to retain, gain one force mentality than to have continued rotation of personnel between active and reserve environments. The flexibilities offered could help retain active and Reserve soldiers for a longer duration.

He is troubled over the issue of reserve medical benefits – that maze of changes in medical insurance Reservists must undergo with each deployment and re-deployment – with regard to the medical changes endured he had this thought and what is a great idea;

If we are truly going to have an operational force in the reserve components, if we are truly going to say to expect to be mobilized on a repeated basis on a regular frequency, we can’t keep requiring the soldier to change medical plans every five years,” he said. “We just can’t keep doing that.” Stultz noted that changing medical plans affects entire families. “That is too much turmoil and stress on the family,” he said.

He’s considered ways to prevent this, possibly by having the military work with employers to share the cost of continuing corporate health-care benefits while a soldier is mobilized. Another option might be for the military to extend Tricare benefits for reservists to reservists who don’t have health insurance elsewhere or at a lower cost than they can get it from their employers.

That could be a big enticement for civilian employers, particularly those in small business, to want to hire reservists, he said.

This effort would be a new avenue and could be taken up quickly for Federal employees that are Reserve soldiers – should be easy to adapt a shared medical burden for soldiers that are also Feds.

Finally the rehashed idea – seen by inside observers of the Reserve component and struck down by the Pentagon every year. There has been several attempts to get a reduced retirement age provision tied to either greater longevity or combat zone experience. These are often championed by congress and dismissed by the Pentagon…

He’s intrigued by the concept of allowing reservists to draw retirement six months early for every year they serve beyond 20. Based on this formula, troops who served 22 years could draw it at age 59. Those with 26 years of service could draw it at 57. Those who stay 30 years – which Stultz recommends as the cap – could draw their retirement at age 55.

“So I would get 10 more years of service out of that individual, for five years of early retirement,” he said.

LTG Stultz is thinking and working some good points – reflecting a point of view shared by many within the rank and File of the Reserves – he is a reserve soldier with a civilian job and knows the trials of such an arrangement. His comments reflect a refreshing air of concern for soldier readiness and retention not seen for many years . Unfortunately he will struggle first with the Active component machine to make these necessary improvements – I would like to see him prevail and I wish him luck.

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