On the Backs of the Guards and Reserves
(February 25, 2010)
|Editor's note... This article by Van E. Harl
is a constant reminder concerning times when America's
military forces are called into harms' way.
Even as Desert Storm was raging and we had in excess of 450,000
combined US military troops involved in that war, down-sizing of the
Department of Defense was occurring.
The cold war was allegedly over. Remember the Berlin wall had fallen
and our nation was determined to cash in on the peace dividend. All
that money we were annually spending to stop the commie hordes of
the Soviet Union from over running the peace loving western European
countries could now be redirected at new and improved social warfare
programs inside the US.
The problem was, in order to get all this extra military money that
was suppose to be lying around, you first had to stop the cash flow
to the military. One of the biggest expenses of the
Van E. Harl
military as well as civilian companies, is the regular paycheck of
the solider/employee. Now when a civilian company lays off employees
to save money it is called "right sizing." When our military gets
rid of trained and prepared troops in order to save taxpayer money,
it is call a future disaster.
The world wide operations tempo of the US military since the early
1990's (when all this downsizing started) has not slowed down or
even skipped a beat. We removed large numbers of already qualified
soldiers from the active duty ranks. Money for equipment and
infrastructure upgrades were dramatically cut back. At the same time
the oversea deployment commitment just kept getting bigger.
I was a Security Policeman in the Air Force. The ranks of that
career field, to include the active duty, guard and reserve shrank
by almost a third. But again the overseas deployment missions just
kept coming. When bullets are flying the first thing you hear from
senior military leaders is to "double the guard." This means put
more troops with rifles in their hands walking around guarding those
multi-million dollar aircraft and their sleeping aircrews.
Now at first blush, that seams only prudent. But where do all these
extra troops come from to facilitate the manpower needed to "double
that guard?" Why the National Guard and Reserve of course. There
sits all those trained and ready to deploy troops and after all they
are just hanging out at home tending to their civilian lives. We
only want to borrow them for two short years.
Right after the "911" attack we called up large numbers of reserve
special operations troops and sent them forward. Some of those
troops were gone from their home and family for the entire two
years. Now mind you we don't even do that to the active duty
services members. A navy ship may go to sea for six to nine months
or a soldier is stationed in Korea for a year without her family,
but none of this two-year separation stuff.
Unfortunately, the big issue for the guardsman or reservist is that,
the part time military is not their life-sustaining career. It is as
stated - a part time job. Please don't get me wrong it is an
extremely important to-this-nation, part time job. But, that reserve
military position is not what is paying the mortgage and putting
kids through college back home. It is their civilian career that
meets these family needs and those civilian careers are suffering.
Yes I know there are laws that require civilian employees to hold
the jobs for returning activated guardsman, but career wise, what
was lost for that person while he was gone for a year or two? How
about promotions or transfers to new and improve positions within
that civilian work environment. If you are a civilian police officer
and you miss testing for sergeant or lieutenant while you were on
temporary active duty, it may take you years to catch up with your
contemporaries. Again your full time civilian career (the bill
payer) has suffered a potential major set back.
What about the young airman who joined the guard to get money for
college? All that tuition assistance is great, but if you are
constantly having a college semester lost to you, because of
call-ups, it could take you many extra years to finish that
four-year degree. After any major activation of the guard and
reserve is over, there is always a loss of young enlisted troops and
When this latest Iraq punch-up is over, we are going to see a major
exiting of career NCOs and field grade officers from the ranks of
the part time marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen. One out of ever
six service members killed in Afghanistan and Iraq has been a
reservist or guardsman. That statistic is not going to help guard
recruiting. There is a strong resistance to increasing the size of
the active duty military. This thought process has to change. We are
going to need a strong National Guard when the next terrorist attack
occurs on US soil.
We can not allow this over use of the guard and reserve to decimate
their ranks. There are predictions of 30 percent or higher losses in
the guard and reserve when this latest round of call-ups is over. We
do not and will not have the time to rebuild the guard and reserve
in the wake of another "9-11" crisis. The Pentagon has to build up
the end strength of the active duty military to meet today's and
tomorrow's defense needs. We as a nation can not win this or any war
on the backs of the National Guard and Reserve.
Van E. Harl
Major Van E. Harl, USAF Ret., was a career police officer in the U.S. Air
Force. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the
Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. Major Harl is a graduate of
the U.S. Army Infantry School, the Air Force Squadron Officer School and the Air
Command and Staff College. After retiring from the Air Force he was a state
police officer in Nevada.
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