The Defense Department’s service personnel chiefs are presenting insights on better ways to integrate Guard and Reserve members into the total force to the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves. In prepared statements the common theme was a need for the seamless integration of the active and reserve military, civilian employees and support contractors into a cohesive and rapidly tailorable force.
The personnel chiefs' testimony reflected comments offered the previous day by Michael Dominguez, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. He urged more flexibility for reserve-component members that enables them to better balance their military and civilian obligations and encourages them to serve. Mr. Dominguez joined the service chiefs in endorsing a "continuum of service" that enables military members to shift between the active and reserve components, more full-time support for Guard and Reserve units, expanded opportunities for joint training and qualifications and a more competitive compensation package.
I have stated in this blog previously that there is a real need for more full-time support to guard and reserve units – having been a part of that structure for 18 years as a military technician. Reserve units are really busy and all critical tasks cannot be accomplished by short handed staffs.
The fact that the services have discussions and seem to be working to fix the gap in the continuum of service for the reserve components is encouraging. I can attest to the bureaucratic tangle required to switch from active Reserve status to active duty caused by everything from TRICARE paperwork to orders to report. I have proposed here as well that an easy transition between Reserve and active component service should be sought as an alternative to current practice to allow a full time part time work schedule as life’s events may require.
What I did not see mentioned is training – the active community has the training resources but they are seldom available to Reserve units on an equal basis. Improve the dynamic of pushing training to Reservists will greatly improve the efficiency of reserve drill periods.
To achieve a balance between military and civilian obligations is perhaps the toughest task facing the commission. Every Reservist is essentially a little at the mercy of civilian employers to hire the reserve soldier or provide support. In reality the enforcement of employer support to the Guard and reserve is not up to the challenge to resolve the hard to prove discriminations which inevitably occur. Additionally – we ask a lot of employers when we take their reserve employees for 2+ years in a 5 year employment cycle – you won’t see that as a recipe for success in any business plan.
Finally – the compensation package – achieving a balance to keep the soldier in uniform as a guard or reserve member. I believe we are doing a passable job now as retention rates seem to be good… but that conveyor has to be fed new soldiers which we are lagging in the Army Reserve.
We do ourselves little positive incentive advertising with deployment rule changes that have changed the conditions of deployment. We make the news with ill advised stop loss policies that hold soldiers past contractual agreements. We must avoid making the Reserve forces career one of deployments on an irregular basis for a changeable period to every need from Homeland defense, emergencies to warfighting. We cannot think that all employers are patriots first and observe the impact of Reservists on the bottom-line second. Reserve and Guard must have some predictability to perform in civilian positions, complete school and serve as well. To keep the best and brightest – those reserve soldiers going somewhere in their civilian lives - we must offer an established path to success in the reserve environment that has the flexibility to compliment civilian and military careers.