Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith, deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Army Reserve, visits Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood on June 25, 2014 to discuss active duty Soldiers transitioning to the Reserve component as an option to continue serving in uniform. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Capt. Xeriqua Garfinke)
FORT BELVOIR, VA. – Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith, deputy chief of staff of the U.S. Army Reserve, visited Fort Hood, Texas on June 25, 2014 to talk about one thing: Taking care of Soldiers.
She met with Reserve Career Component Counselors (RCCC) and Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, III Corps and Fort Hood commander, and his staff about retaining America's military talent as they transition from the active component to a Reserve position.
She was also invited to talk as the keynote speaker at Fort Hood's first Pride Observance Month event, where she relayed her own experiences of being the first openly gay general to serve in the U.S. military.
Her messages were clear: Stay Army Strong, be who you are and understand options to continue to serve part-time with the Reserve component.
Taking care of Soldiers is arming them with the right information at the right time.
Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg, U.S. Army deputy chief of staff, selected Fort Hood as the test base for the Army Reserve 365 Pilot Program, also known as AC2RC because of the volume of Soldiers transitioning out every year.
The pilot is designed to extend the time allocated for RCCCs to reach out to active duty transitioning soldiers and talk about their options sooner.
“Start conversations earlier. This way, soldiers know their choices better,” said Smith.
“I do like talking to the Soldiers earlier so they can make good decisions,” commented Sgt. Maj. Lisa Birkhead, III Corps RCCC senior enlisted adviser. “Early contract is still an issue, because they are not ready to commit.“
Meanwhile, the active Army is facing a serious reduction in ranks in the coming months. They dropped from 570,000 troops during the peak of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to 510,000, focused on an end strength of 490,000.
Moving troops to civilian life is difficult and notifications are already underway for 1,100 Army captains and 500 majors for early separation.
“There must be human contact and compassion with what is happening to them as people,” Smith said. “In addition, [informing them of] what their choices are, now that they have been put into this position.”
This is an opportunity for Soldiers to seriously consider staying Army Strong with the Reserve.
“Going into the Reserve is an amazing opportunity to continue to be leader in uniform, and it's also a practical opportunity to retain many of the benefits, such as retirement, that they have already invested in with their time in the active service,” said Smith.
The Reserve option also means continued health and education benefits, part-time employment and a chance to earn extra pay while pursuing a career as a civilian or earning a degree.
Her take-away from the visit was invaluable.
“All of the leaders I visited with are actively engaged in the active-to-Reserve transition,” Smith said.
Smith was able to get a “few good nuggets” of information to properly assess how the pilot program is working.
“This pilot will let us know if we can take this program to other installations.”
By U.S. Army Capt. Xeriqua Garfinke
Provided through DVIDS
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