KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, Chief of the Army Reserve, visited with deployed Army Reserve soldiers and held a town hall meeting at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, Jan. 23. The town hall was to discuss the general’s goals for the Army Reserve and to have an open dialogue about some of the issues Army Reserve soldiers are facing.
Stultz acknowledged the great evolution within the Army Reserve that has been taking place since he joined in 1979. When the Army Reserve was viewed as a force of “last resort” and therefore received less training, equipment and resources than it needed to be a professional, quick-response, fighting force.
He said the realities of Sept. 11, 2001 and the subsequent length of the conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan forced the military to recognize the importance of the Reserve and National Guard components.
“We can’t fight a long war without the Reserve,” said Stultz, addressing an audience of Army Reserve soldiers. “Today about 60 percent of the Army’s medical capabilities are within the Army Reserve. Between us and the National Guard, we have 75 percent of the engineer capabilities, 80 percent of the transportation capabilities, 70 percent of the quartermaster capabilities, 85 percent of the civil affairs field, and I think 70 percent of the military police capabilities. We’ve structured the Army to where we can’t do without you.”
Stultz said the Army Reserve soldiers have proven capable of not only succeeding in but excelling at their missions, and have been recognized domestically by the Department of Defense and Congress, but also by foreign governments and militaries, for their professionalism and dedication.
Moving forward, he said that 2011 will be a year filled with much change. Several of the top civilian and military leaders are set to retire this year to include the Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Chief of the Army George W. Casey and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston. In accordance with the Base Realignment and Closure process, several high-level Army commands will be relocating to new headquarters. Additionally, the Army is anticipating large cuts to defense spending as politicians attempt to decrease the deficit.
Stultz reassured the soldiers they shouldn’t be concerned by the changes.
“Don’t worry about any of this. You worry about doing your jobs, staying alive on the battlefield and accomplishing the mission. I’ll take care of the rest,” said Stultz.
He said, through meeting with soldiers, he discovered there were two pressing desires: predictability and better time management.
Stultz said the Army Reserve was working toward the Army Force Generation goal of four years dwell time between deployments, but current mission requirements made it difficult to make that benchmark.
“When somebody comes to me and they say, ‘Hey, we really need another route clearance company in Afghanistan because soldiers’ lives are at risk and some of those soldiers are yours,’ well then I see what I can do. It’s hard to say no when soldiers’ lives are at risk. Until this demand comes down a little bit it’s going to be hard to meet the goal dwell times,” Stultz explained.
The second issue soldiers expressed frustration with was repetitive training during the mobilization process and attending weekend drills but not developing the skills relevant to their combat missions. Stultz said it was his priority to break the paradigm that drill should only happen one weekend per month. He said it might better suit soldiers on an individual level to execute drill during the week or combine the training-time into a full week and send them to active duty bases relevant to their MOS to train on equipment they’ll be using in the fight.
In addition to addressing these two obstacles, Stultz said the Army Reserve needed to be reshaped as a force. While the Army Reserve is currently meeting staffing requirements, there are issues with geographical shortages, MOS shortages, non-deployable soldiers and a limitation on upward movement within the ranks.
One approach has been to reduce the recruiting standard and to recruit for specific MOSs at certain geographical location. Another approach has been the incorporation of qualitative and selective retention.
“We’re telling people you don’t get to serve 30 years, that’s a privilege and not a right,” said Stultz. “We’re trying to clear the deck for you because you’ve earned it. The fair thing to do is to have upward mobility and to have opportunities for soldiers who have deployed.”
Stultz also advised the soldiers to take advantage of civilian job opportunities for themselves and their spouses that exist through the Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces program. The program is designed to leverage the skills and experience soldiers develop in the military into civilian careers.
“It’s not just a patriotic thing to hire a soldier, it’s a business decision, because they bring a different work ethic and they bring integrity, values and skills. I’m not saying it isn’t tough in some parts of the country, but there are opportunities out there and they’re looking for your talents,” said Stultz.
The visit concluded his three-day tour of Afghanistan.