WASHINGTON (Feb. 03, 2015) – The Army Reserve currently has a little more than 197,000 Soldiers. This year’s end-strength objective is to have 202,000, said Barbara A. Sisson, assistant chief of the U.S. Army Reserve.
“We are hiring,” said Sisson, adding that the doors are wide open for anyone desiring an exciting, rewarding and challenging career, particularly Soldiers who are planning to leave the service either voluntarily or involuntarily.
While Soldiers with valuable skill sets — engineers, doctors, lawyers and so on — are sought after, there are other skills needed by the Reserve. Soldiers should see their career counselors or an Army Reserve representative at least a year before separation to determine if they are a good fit and get the ball rolling early, she said.
Even if Soldiers don’t have high-demand skills, there could be opportunities to retrain for a different military occupational specialty while still on active duty, Sisson said. Also, under the Soldier For Life program, employers are actively providing job training at installations, so that’s another route.
Hopefully Soldiers’ units will give them the time to participate in these valuable transition programs, she said.
There are a lot of other reasons to go Reserve, she said. Besides having a part-time income, Soldiers can stay in the Army, earn retirement and TRICARE health benefits and use their skills to benefit the United States. The cost-benefits alone are potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over a Soldier’s lifetime.
“Do you really want to walk away from that?” Sisson asked.
Apparently, Soldiers are not walking away from those opportunities as there’s been “a growing number of people coming to us,” she said.
Army G-1 has been helpful too, she added, providing names of the best captains and majors being involuntarily separated. “We made contact with them. I understand that hundreds of them will be coming our way. That’s good for the individuals, the Army and the taxpayers. It’s easier than growing them from scratch,” she said, meaning the veterans have the skills and military experience needed to hit the ground running.
The Army Reserve would also “love to hire not only Soldiers coming off active duty, but those leaving the other services,” she said. “We’re working with [the] U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command [TRADOC] to try and figure out how to bring in those from the other services coming off active duty who have skills that match the Army Reserve. I’d love to get some of those trained Navy Seabees engineers or doctors and lawyers from the Air Force and Coast Guard.”
The reason for working with TRADOC, she said, is that as of now, Service members, except for Marines, would likely have to go through Army basic combat training.
The Army Reserve is part of the Private-Public Partnership Program, which establishes relationships with corporate America, academia and nonprofit organizations. The goal, she said, is to employ Reserve Soldiers as well as enhance their skills.
An example was the Reserve partnership with Coca-Cola to bring water to drought-stricken villages in Africa. That effort was paid by the company, she said, so the taxpayers didn’t foot the bill, the Reserve Soldiers got valuable training and the host nations received assistance.
A partnership was also made with General Electric, or GE, which produces medical equipment which the Army uses in operations. GE needed highly skilled persons to work on their equipment and were having trouble retaining them, Sisson said. Likewise the Reserve was having trouble training Soldiers to use specialized equipment.
“So we got with GE and said ‘how about if we send you our Army Reserve Soldiers? You train them and after that training period, if you decide you want to offer them full-time employment, that’s great. You don’t have to, but that’s available to you.’
“What we got out of that was trained Army medical technicians who could work on this equipment and GE ended up with 85 percent of those who went through the training who were offered full-time jobs,” Sisson said.
“We call it the externship program and we’re looking to expand that to other types of equipment and other companies,” she added.
RESERVE VALUE, EXPERTISE
The Reserve doesn’t mirror the Guard and active Army, Sisson said, meaning it brings unique skill sets to the total force, including the active, Guard and joint force.
So, if a port needed opening somewhere in the world, Reserve Soldiers would be some of the first people there, she said, explaining that duty is normally thought of as being Navy-centric. The reservists would be needed to set up logistics and flow in engineers, medical, military police and so on.
“We have about 80 percent of the total Army’s civil affairs, logistics, over half of total Army medical and information operations,” she said. “They’re at the top of their field and want to continue serving their country.” Sisson is a retired reservist, as is her husband.
The Army Reserve is good for the taxpayer, she emphasized.
While the Army Reserve has an annual budget that’s under $8 billion, it contributes about $18 billion to the national economy, according to an economist who ran the numbers, she said.
Another interesting fact, she said, is the Army Reserve “represents 6 percent of the total Army budget, yet we contribute 20 percent of the total-force operational requirements.”
While the Reserve is an Army component, it’s also an Army command, she said, reporting to U.S. Army Forces Command. While the Guard works for governors, the Reserve answers to the Army chief of staff and combatant commanders. That gives the Army flexibility of authority in using Reserve forces.
AN OPERATIONAL FORCE
The Reserve participates in regionally aligned forces with units attached to combatant commanders, Sisson said. Cells or teams are embedded at each combatant commander headquarters and at the Army service-component commands. So in the case of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Army Central Command, there are about 5,000 reservists split between them.
U.S. Southern Command has 1,200 Reservists and U.S. Northern Command has 3,000, to name a few, she said.
To continue to remain an operational Reserve, the Army needs to have the funding and authority, she said, pointing to the National Commission on the Future of the Army, which reports to Congress next year.
The Reserve would like the commission to have a representative there to answer questions and provide expert testimony about the roles, responsibilities and requirements, she said.
Coming out of the commission’s report to Congress, the Reserve would like clarity and reaffirmation of its mission sets, which drive all decision making from people and force structure to training dollars and modernization.