LUSAKA, Zambia - U.S. National Guardsmen and military reservists are citizens by definition and don’t train or work in their military vocation full time.
This isn’t to say their dedication and professionalism is only part time.
Both guardsmen and reservists were sent to the African country of Zambia for Exercise Africa Endeavor, Aug. 6 to 15, 2013. Africa Endeavor, hosted in various nations across the African continent since 2006, is U.S. Africa Command's annual 10-day communications exercise that focuses on on information sharing and interoperability between African nations.
Featuring hundreds of participants from 38 African nations along with five European and North American countries, there were many layers to Africa Endeavor. However, reserve-component augmentation to active training and operations is integral, said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Bryan McRoberts, Africa Endeavor exercise director, AFRICOM.
“We rely heavily on our guardsmen and reservists to execute this exercise,” McRoberts said. “We certainly couldn't complete it without their broad spectrum of skills and professionalism.”
Guardsmen and reservists balance school, civilian work and home life with their military careers, so although integration within their full-time military brethren happens on occasion, it’s a somewhat rare opportunity to travel so far from home on a temporary duty.
"Most reservists or civilians don't get to take part in an exercise on this continent, thousands of miles away from home,” said U.S. Navy Reserve Lt. Donald Collins, knowledge manager supporting maritime operations for Africa Endeavor.
The interoperability between reserve and active components can be viewed a microcosm of the African Endeavor exercise itself. Designed for African nations to increase their interoperability and exchange ideas to work better together, the goal for the Reservists and their active-duty counterparts is no different.
Reservists not only bring their military training, but civilian way of thinking into the mix, and that can be a huge learning benefit to both sides, Collins said.
U.S. Marine Reserve 1st Sgt. William Singleton, company first sergeant, echoed this sentiment, saying that diverse services working together adds value to the training and the end product that you get.
"I think we accomplish the mission much better jointly than we would as individual services," he said.
U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Derek Henderson, crypto linguist, Utah National Guard, is no stranger to working among active duty personnel as he spent 11 years as an active-duty Army soldier. He also noted a similarity in the host-nation military, and U.S. reserve-components.
“Zambian military members are similar to guardsmen, in that they are multifaceted in their professions,” he said.
Although training opportunities like this may not come around for reserve-component service members often, they appreciate the opportunity when it does.
“Having the opportunity to interact with so many individuals from many different countries is rare experience,” Collins said. “It's a special opportunity, and I'm glad to be part of it."