Academic journal article Military Review

Reserve Components Commanders and Training

Academic journal article Military Review

Reserve Components Commanders and Training

Article excerpt

I do not know when or where, but we will sometime place soldiers in harm's way, on short notice and ask them to defeat a determined and dangerous foe. When that happens, we should be satisfied that we have done our best to prepare them for the task at hand.

- US Army FY00 Posture Statement WITH THE END of the Cold War, the threat to the United States has changed radically and the Army is changing to meet those new challenges. The US Army Reserve (USAR) and the Army National Guard (ARNG) must also evolve to ensure that they can perform their critical missions. Training and readiness have taken on new meaning in the current climate of a smaller Army based on power projection from a Continental United States (CONUS) platform. An ever-greater operational tempo and increasing numbers of deployments underscore the importance of Reserve Component (RC) readiness.

At its most basic level, readiness in the RC means obtaining and retaining well trained soldiers. Drill attendance and unit status report (USR) personnel ratings are the most visible manifestations of readiness. Key factors that affect personnel readiness, such as recruiting, retention and drill attendance, are direct functions of quality training.

Training systems developed in the Cold War era may not serve us well today. historically, the RC was able to count on Long lead times and moved at a slower pace. However, two singular weeks of annual training no longer ensures adequate training or readiness for today's changing requirements. Aggressive mission-essential task list (METL) training must be done during monthly inactive duty for training (IDT), leaving annual training available for real world support. In the post-Cold War Army, weekend drill training or IDT is the most crucial element of total training strategy.

The company commander is responsible far high-- quality weekend training. Unfortunately, commanders are also responsible for almost everything else. However, with only 14 percent of the paid time of their active counterparts, RC company commanders are overwhelmed. In addition to METL training, commanders must deal with schools, personnel, pay, recruiting and retention. Active component (AC) commanders do not deal with split-option recruits, basic training no-shows or maintaining personnel records. Nor do AC commanders recruit; trained soldiers fill their unit vacancies. The AC structure provides these and other support services to the company commander because these administrative tasks clearly divert training energy. These and other training distracters erode the RC commanders' ability to plan and conduct meaningful training. The commanders' inability to focus on high-quality METL training is compounded by a lack of doctrinal context due to the reliance on geography rather than function in determining RC command structure. As a result, much of the training is conducted without doctrinally-based multiechelon focus.

The RC must update its systems with the aim of reducing the burden on its commanders. A number of specific steps will redistribute support functions, reorient resources and change regulations to give commanders more training flexibility. Some proposals are based on our own experience in a typical USAR transportation battalion of five assigned subordinate units. Other recommendations concern systemic changes that will help prepare the RC for this new era.

The strategy that we developed over three years in the 483d Transportation Battalion aimed at three specific areas: reduce administrative burden, develop training synergies between units and offer proper doctrinal guidance. As much as possible, we relieved our commanders of some nonproductive duties and gave them better tools to train and retain ready soldiers. In turn, they were able to focus more of their attention on METL training. In the process, we enhanced overall readiness (as measured by the USR and its supporting documentation), improved drill attendance and increased the units' capabilities, particularly among the battalion staff to perform their wartime missions. …

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