Magazine article National Defense

At War, Navy Finds New Uses for Reserve Forces

Magazine article National Defense

At War, Navy Finds New Uses for Reserve Forces

Article excerpt

As part of its effort to reduce the strain of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Navy is moving to integrate its 83,000 reservists into active-duty operations, according to Vice Adm. John G. Cotton, chief of the Naval Reserve.

"We are moving away from the 'weekend-warrior' culture," Cotton told National Defense.

The chief of naval operations, Adm. Vern Clark, has ordered Cotton and other Reserve leaders to work with Adm. William Falkon, head of U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., to align the service's Reserve and active-duty forces more closely.

The Fleet Forces Command was created in October 2001 to establish common personnel, training and equipment standards throughout the Navy's Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, as well as the Reserves. The Forces Command is conducting a detailed analysis of the Reserve's existing skills and those that active-duty commanders would like them to have.

"For the first time, one fleet commander-acting for all other Navy commanders--is conducting a zero-based review," Cotton said. "Every Reserve unit and billet is being reviewed for capability, relevance and alignment with fleet requirements and then forwarded to the CNO for inclusion in future budget deliberations and requests."

As part of the alignment process, the Navy recently consolidated the three staffs at Naval Reserve Forces Command headquarters in New Orleans into one to serve as the provider of reserve capabilities to Fleet Forces Command.

In addition, the service has begun embedding key full-time reservists throughout the active-duty service, from the CNO's office, in the Pentagon, to major commands across the fleet. "We want our reservists to learn how the active component works, and we want active-duty commanders to see the quality of our reservists," Cotton said.

Whenever possible, reservists are being encouraged to schedule their two drill days each month during the work week, rather than on weekends. "That's when most of the fleet works," he said.

Some Navy reservists don't have to be deployed for six months or longer, as is typically the case for other services, Cotton said. Long deployments complicate the lives of the reservists, their families and their employers.

Some Navy reservists have job specialties that permit them to be assigned short-term missions, Cotton said. "An airline pilot, for example, can go to his airline and say, I've got to go to war for a couple of weeks.'"

The Navy also is trying to reduce counterproductive distinctions between active-duty sailors and reservists. For example, the Navy in August began issuing new identification cards. The old cards--used to gain access to military bases and facilities, such as post exchanges, commissaries and medical clinics--specified whether the holder was active-duty or reservist.

"The result has been that reservists, using those cards, have been treated as 'lesser,'" Cotton said. The new cards identify both active-duty and reservist only as "Navy."

Reserve units are being reorganized to strengthen job specialties that are in demand in the wartime Navy. Since the 2000 attack on die USS Cole, for example, the service has added 1,379 reserve billets in the fields of anti-terrorism and force protection.

In 2002, the Navy's construction battalions, or Seabees, two thirds of which are made up of reservists, were combined into a single division. The new division's mission is to organize, train, equip and direct Seabees in their operations around the world.

Defense officials are assigning new homeland security roles to the Naval Reserve in such fields as harbor defense, port security, maritime surveillance, anti-terrorism, force protection and maintenance of shipping channels.

The reservists will bolster the Coast Guard, which traditionally conducts many of these missions, but has a force of only 37,000, Cotton said. …

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