Resetting Reserve Component Units: Taking Care of Soldiers and Families

July 15, 2011

In the past decade, the U.S. Army has prevailed in some of the most daunting tasks in its history. Soldiers—active, Guard and Reserve—have demonstrated spirit, sacrifice and sheer determination in protecting America’s vital interests and supporting friends and allies around the world. However, the strain of the first decade of 21st century conflict has had a profound effect on Soldiers of all components and their families. For the Army the human toll of recent military engagements has been steep and shows no signs of abating.

Resetting the force—returning units, Soldiers and families to a level of readiness necessary for future missions—remains a formidable challenge requiring an enduring level of commitment from the executive and legislative branches of government. Reset encompasses tasks to reintegrate Soldiers and their families and then organize, man, equip and train a unit. It is predicated on the concept of providing Soldiers and their families an opportunity to recover from the cumulative effects of a sustained operational tempo. The Army’s reset plan for all components strives to revitalize Soldiers and their families by reestablishing and strengthening relationships following deployments. This reset plan—including identifying and applying lessons learned over a decade—is an imperative that endures not only as long as the Army is deployed but also an additional two to three years after major deployments end.

The unprecedented pace of repeated deployments creates significant health, career, educational and relationship challenges for Soldiers of all components and their families. The high number and intensity of recent operational commitments have strained not only the Army’s active component (AC) forces but also its reserve component (RC) forces. No longer a strategic reserve, the Army’s RC (the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve) has evolved into an operational force, providing combat, combat support and combat service support forces to combatant commanders—on a rotational basis similar to that of its AC counterpart. In fact, the RC fulfills most of the critical wartime requirements for medical support, transportation, engineering, civil affairs, information operations and other logistical functions. After nearly ten years supporting the warfight in Afghanistan and Iraq, Army RC forces are a battle-tested, seasoned and trusted part of the total force.

RC Soldiers and family members face some unique reset challenges caused by extended distances from reserve centers and readiness centers, civilian career responsibilities and the RC’s evolving role as an operational force. During reset, RC Soldiers need to assimilate back into their local communities by reuniting with family, having timely and predictable access to health care-related resources, engaging successfully with the civilian workforce and pursuing educational opportunities. Such reintegration is not only beneficial for Soldiers and their families but also of vital importance for the overall readiness of the RC and, ultimately, the entire Army. The Army National Guard has instituted a variety of programs and initiatives during the past ten years to ameliorate these challenges and take care of Soldiers and their families; the Army Reserve has both developed and adapted service delivery models tailored to meet the needs of geographically dispersed Soldiers. Will resources continue to be available now and in the years ahead to sustain reserve component Soldiers and family members?