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National Guard and Reserve

Serving in the National Guard & Reserve

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

Full disclosure: I ‘grew up’ in the Reserve Component of the US Armed Forces. The Missouri National Guard, to be specific. It’s what helped shape me into who I am today and had a bearing on how I approached the various positions I held in the Army. And no surprise, it will be the lens through which I write the rest of this post. Consider me a fan of the National Guard and Reserve…

I’m not writing this because there’s a military draft on its way, or that we’re getting ready for an extended conflict in the Middle East…no, I’m writing on this particular subject because the reserve forces of these United States of America are so vital to our national defense that they deserve some attention every now and again.

What kind of forces are we talking about? It’s what some of us refer to as the Seven Seals: Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Army Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, and Air Force Reserve. Some of these part-time forces have been around for quite a while (the oldest is the National Guard, closing in on 400 years), and armories have been a hub in many of our communities for decades. And while many of us are familiar with the similarities, I talk with folks all the time who are surprised when they discover the differences between those components of our military reserve.

Some of those differences are branch-specific; with Army forces, both Guard Soldiers and Army Reserve Soldiers train one weekend per month and two weeks every summer (but there may be opportunities to go on orders for extended periods). Both National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers can be called into full-time service to support Army missions (and not just for combat deployments). The primary distinction, though, is that National Guard Soldiers serve a dual mission…either a State’s Governor or the President of the United States can call up the National Guard, for state emergency duty or a federal mobilization. That’s just what the Army has to offer for potential Citizen-Soldiers…the other branches of service have their own ways of doing business, and their own opportunities. Just know that today, serving in the Guard & Reserve is so much more than one weekend a month & 2 weeks in the summer.

Way back in the mid-1980s, when I joined the local National Guard unit while I was going to college, it was a different fighting force than it is today. While we were proud of our ability to shoot, move, and communicate (yes, I was in a Field Artillery unit), at the local armory it seemed more about the camaraderie and sense of belonging than anything else. But that was pre-Desert Storm, and pre-Global War of Terror. During that decade after the first Gulf War, leading up to 9/11, it felt like our reserve forces were changing…more modern equipment for many of our units, more inclusion by our active duty counterparts. Less about being “in the rear with the gear,” if we were even called up at all. Today, many of our brothers and sisters in the National Guard & Reserve, like their counterparts on active duty, have multiple deployments under their belt while also playing a pivotal role in their local community.

Many of the challenges that traditional members of the reserve component face revolve around their civilian employment…either juggling their co-careers (military service and a civilian occupation) or finding that good civilian job in the first place. I’ve spoken with too many job-seekers over the last decade who feel they’ve dropped out of consideration for an open job when that employer finds out they serve in the Guard or Reserve. I’d like to think that it’s a rare occurrence, not just because it’s less than legal, but because it’s a bad business decision. Folks with military experience bring so much more to an employer’s workforce than those without; I always argue that it more than makes up for the time they may have to spend away on training or on a deployment.

Fortunately, for those that have a civilian job and get called away to serve, there’s USERRA, which is the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (esgr.mil/USERRA/What-is-USERRA). USERRA is a Federal law that establishes rights and responsibilities for uniformed Service members and their civilian employers. USERRA “protects the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment positions to perform service in the uniformed Services, to include certain types of service in the National Disaster Medical System and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service.”

USERRA’s protections are intended to ensure that persons who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, Reserve, National Guard, or other uniformed Services: (1) are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their service; (2) are promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty; and (3) are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present, or future military service. Just as important, the law is intended to encourage non-career uniformed service so the United States can enjoy the protection of those Services, staffed by qualified people, while maintaining a balance with the needs of private and public employers who also depend on these same individuals. For more information on this Act and the agency that is its biggest cheerleader, check out Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), at esgr.mil. ESGR is a Department of Defense program established in 1972 “to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment.”

I’m not a recruiter – never have been – but I maintain that it’s a great way to serve, if you’re qualified. And while, certainly, there are challenges with serving and maintaining a co-career in the Guard & Reserve, there are benefits, too. You might be eligible for G.I. Bill benefits, state-level tuition assistance to help pay for college, VA home loans to buy a house, and even health insurance. If you’ve separated from the Service & miss your time in uniform or know someone else that wants to serve, reach out to the local recruiter & see what’s on the table. With some of the Services, you’ll find over 100 different jobs you might be eligible for, from high-tech jobs to practical trade skills or vocations where you get to blow stuff up.

I thought I’d include some quick links here, just in case you want to make a connection (yes, a Military Connection). Keep in mind that these links may change, or the links might stay the same but the options for joining might be different based on the needs of that particular Service. Visit the Army National Guard at https://www.nationalguard.com/; the Air National Guard at https://www.goang.com/; the Army Reserve at https://www.goarmy.com/reserve.html; the Coast Guard Reserve at https://www.gocoastguard.com/reserve-careers; the Navy Reserve at https://www.navy.com/forward; the Marine Corps Reserve at https://www.marforres.marines.mil/; and the Air Force Reserve at https://afreserve.com/.

So, when you come across that ‘weekend warrior’ in your local community, I encourage you to see beyond the uniform. Sure, you can thank her or him for their service, or show your appreciation in other ways; but I hope you consider more consciously the challenges they face, even in times of peace and no deployments. Consider how they juggle the co-careers of military service and a civilian occupation, or how they’ll leave it all behind to deploy when necessary. And if you weren’t already, I hope you’re now a fan of the National Guard and Reserve, too.

Until next time…

Operation Cold Steel II Prepares Reserve Soldiers for War

cold steel

By Debbie Gregory.

The Army Reserve is preparing 10,000 soldiers for major war with intensive training on machine guns and automatic grenade launchers.

Called Operation Cold Steel II, the first iteration spanned two months, from Oct. 12 to Dec. 15, 2017, at Fort Hunter Liggett, CA. During that time, the 79th Theater Support Command (TSC), hosted Task Force Coyote, training approximately 2,000 Soldiers on crew-served weapons including the M2 machine gun, M249 light machine gun, M240B machine gun and Mark 19 40 mm grenade machine gun. Soldiers in this iteration focused on ground qualification, expending more than 1.2 million rounds of ammunition.

The second iteration took place at Fort McCoy, WI, on Feb. 19, 2018. The third iteration began shortly after on March 1 at at Fort Knox, KY.

“Cold Steel benefits the (troop list unit Soldiers) by training them and giving them an experience that they most likely have never had in the Army Reserve or even in the history of the Army Reserve,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Freddy Trejo, Task Force Triad senior enlisted advisor, Operation Cold Steel II. “We’re putting weapons in their hands, getting them qualified, increasing their confidence as Army Reserve Soldiers and we are sending crews back to units completely qualified and trained.”

In addition to crew-served weapons qualification, an estimated 250 Soldiers are training as Vehicle Crew Evaluators. Newly-trained Army Reserve Master Gunner Common Core graduates are teaming with seasoned active-component Master Gunners to build the bench enabling units in the Army Reserve to conduct gunnery autonomously at the unit level.

The live-fire exercises are also a valuable opportunity for Army Reserve sergeants — the noncommissioned backbone of the force — to take charge of training again, after years of centralized, top-down preparation for Afghanistan and Iraq.

The soldiers will train and qualify on MK-19, M240B, M2 and M249 platforms mounted to various military vehicles, including Humvees, Medium Tactical Vehicles, Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks, and Heavy Equipment Transports.

“Operation Cold Steel is designed to train Soldiers on a way to effectively acquire and engage targets on a mounted platform. This is something that has not been trained on in the Army Reserve in a while other than during (pre-mobilization),” said Staff Sgt. David Jenkins, operations noncommissioned officer, Task Force Cold Steel II.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Reserve Component Forces Deserve Greater Job Protections

Soldiers from the Wisconsin and Utah Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve sing the Army song after donning the historic "Old Abe" patch ceremony at 101st Division Headquarters, at Fort Campbell, Ky., June 16, 2015. The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) became the first division headquarters to convert to a multi-component unit division headquarters. The purpose of multi-component unit division headquarters is to fully integrate Reserve and National Guard Soldiers into the modification table of organization and equipment.

By Debbie Gregory.

Since the founding of our Republic, the citizen soldier has been ready, on-call to leave home and protect our nation. Although the United States has the greatest standing military force in the world today, that force cannot accomplish its mission of protecting liberty without the support and augmentation of our Reserve Component (RC) whether from the Army or Air National Guard or from the Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, or Coast Guard Reserve.

These Guard and Reserve troops comprise about half of our fighting forces. When citizen soldiers leave their families and civilian employment to protect our liberty, we have an obligation to them to protect their legal rights.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, also known as USERRA, is a Federal law that establishes rights and responsibilities for uniformed servicemembers and their civilian employers. It ensures that the RC are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their service; (2) are promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty; and (3) are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present, or future military service.

Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) informs and educates servicemembers and their civilian employers regarding their rights and responsibilities governed by USERRA. ESGR does not enforce USERRA, but serves as a neutral, free resource for employers and servicemembers.

It is up to Congress to update USERRA to reflect the increased training commitments of today’s force, and consider additional tax benefits such as deductions for hiring reservists and tax exemptions for “differential pay.”

Although USERRA compliance is the law, these efforts to reward employers who go above and beyond current requirements would be of great benefit to our RC. If you are an employer and would like to sign a statement of support, please contact  Debbie Gregory at [email protected] , and in my capacity as Director of Employer Engagement, for California ESGR, I will be happy to arrange a signing ceremony.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Bilden Withdraws as Navy Secretary Nominee

bilden

By Debbie Gregory.

President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of the Navy withdrew from consideration on Sunday, the second time a Trump nominee to lead one of the armed services bowed out because of government conflict-of-interest rules.

The nominee, Philip Bilden, a former military intelligence officer in the Army Reserve who ran the Hong Kong branch of a private equity firm, said in a statement that he had informed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that he did not want to continue to seek confirmation a month after he had been named for the post.

“I fully support the President’s agenda and the Secretary’s leadership to modernize and rebuild our Navy and Marine Corps, and I will continue to support their efforts outside of the Department of the Navy,” said Bilden. “However, after an extensive review process, I have determined that I will not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family’s private financial interests.”

Vincent Viola, a billionaire Wall Street trader and Mr. Trump’s choice for secretary of the Army, withdrew because he decided it was too difficult to detach himself from his business interests.

Bilden, the son of a naval officer, attended Georgetown University on an R.O.T.C. scholarship and served from 1986 to 1996 in the Army Reserve as an intelligence officer. He was a board member of the Naval Academy Foundation and the Naval War College Foundation and has two sons who attended the Naval Academy. He was reported to be Mr. Mattis’s choice for the position.

He made his fortune in a 25-year career at HarbourVest Partners, first in Boston and then in Hong Kong.

The development leaves Trump and Mattis without nominees to head both the Navy and Army.

“In the coming days I will make a recommendation to President Trump for a leader who can guide our Navy and Marine Corps team as we execute the president’s vision to rebuild our military,” Mattis said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Reserve Reconsiders Heart Attack Case After Denial

shane morgan

By Debbie Gregory.

The Army Reserve has allegedly reopened an investigation into whether a reservist’s heart attack during a required physical fitness test should be considered “in the line of duty.” The determination would be the deciding factor as to whether or not the medical bills will be paid by the government.

In November, 2015, Army Reserve Capt. Shane Morgan was in the midst of his push-up test. “I got 15 in, and I noticed that it was a lot harder for me to do push-ups than it has ever been,” Shane said.

He was hooked up to an EKG, which revealed that Morgan had one artery that was completely blocked, and he was having a heart attack.

The good news is that he survived. The bad news is that a line-of-duty investigation by the Army determined that Morgan’s heart attack was not triggered by the test, so the Army will not pay the medical bills.

That has left Morgan and his spouse, Jaime, with $10,000 in medical costs after private insurance through Morgan’s civilian employer paid it’s portion.

Pressure built up via a media campaign has led the Army to reopen its investigation. But Army Reserve officials have cited privacy rules that prevent the confirmation of this action..

“The Army Privacy Act Program prohibits us from discussing a soldier’s medical history or medical records,” said Maj. Adam Jackson, an Army Reserve spokesman.

The line of duty investigation findings stated that although Morgan’s heart attack occurred during the PT test, it was not caused by the test.

“The mere fact that the soldier was in an ‘authorized status’ does not support a determination of ‘line of duty’ in and of itself,” states the document, signed by Michelle Palmer, chief of the Reserve’s health branch services. “There is a chance this may have occurred in or out of duty status.”

But Jaime Morgan said “You have a heart attack during a forced, a mandated PT test and then you tell him it’s his fault that he could have had it at home, but he didn’t have it at home he had it, while he was doing push-ups.”

Proving that her husband isn’t the only warrior in the family, Jaime has vowed to keep fighting the ruling until it is reversed and the bills are paid by the military.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Army Troop Levels Lowest Since WWII

armytroop

By Debbie Gregory.

The Army is juggling global operations as it continues to deal with the lowest troop levels since before World War II.

In March, the Army has had approximately 2,600 soldiers depart active service without being replaced, leaving the end strength at 479,172 soldiers.  The Army’s reserve forces total 548,024 soldiers, (348,463 soldiers in the Army National Guard and 199,561 with the Army Reserve) for a total force of 1,027,196 soldiers.

The number of women serving on active duty April 1 stood at 69,171, a total that includes 15,654 officers, 52,698 enlisted soldiers and 819 West Point cadets.

The female population of the Regular Army was reduced by 340 members in March.

During the past year, the size of the active force has been reduced by 16,548 soldiers.

The Army is on track to achieve, or exceed, the budgeted end-strength of 475,000 soldiers by the end of September.

The drawdown is expected to continue for two additional years, with an end-strength goal 460,000 soldiers in 2017, and 450,000 in 2018.

Rep. Chris Gibson, R-NY has introduced legislation to stop ongoing drawdowns for the Army and Marine Corps, potentially adding 55,000 soldiers back into Army plans. He argued the world is less safe than it was when the Obama administration announced the troop cuts, pointing to threats from the Islamic State group, Russia, China and North Korea.

The Army estimated its reductions of about 40,000 troops would save $7 billion over four years, officials said when they were announced in July. The reduced troop levels were attributed to mandatory spending caps under the 2011 Budget Control Act.

In a major war overseas, at 980,000 soldiers, the Army would not have enough troops to provide them with “dwell time,” the rotation home which has been common in recent conflicts.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Army Considers Bonuses to Soldiers, Wherever They Deploy

ukraine

By Debbie Gregory.

The Army is working on a proposal to pay bonuses to soldiers who deploy on non-combat tours that take them away from home. If Army leaders green-light the plan, it would still have to be approved by the Defense Department and Congress.

While soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan rightly receive hazardous duty pay and other incentives, there are no bonuses to soldiers who rotate into South Korea for nine-month tours. There are currently no bonuses to soldiers on Pacific Pathways exercises for months at a time, troops in Ukraine, and troops in Europe who don’t receive bonuses.

Incentives would give soldiers extra cash when they’re deployed, away from home and family. This could mean more pay for soldiers in Japan or Malaysia or Kenya. Or even possibly those away from home for weeks at a time for a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

This latest proposal is part of a larger Army effort to reduce the number of non-deployers in uniform.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has said that readiness is the service’s top priority.

“We must ensure the Army remains ready as the world’s premier combat force. Readiness for ground combat is — and will remain — the U.S. Army’s No. 1 priority,” Milley said.

According to the Army, approximately 10% of soldiers (active, Guard and Reserve) are currently non-deployable. About three-quarters of non-deployable soldiers are due to medical reasons. They could be receiving treatment for short term or long term medical issues.

The other one quarter are usually non-deployable due to legal or administrative issues.

The active Army has gone from a wartime high of 570,000 soldiers to the current 490,000. The end-strength is expected to stand at 450,000 by the end of fiscal year 2018.

The Army National Guard is expected to go from 350,000 soldiers to 335,000 over the next three years, while the Army Reserve will drop from 198,000 to 195,000.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Smaller Army Will Affect Guard and Reserve: Military Connection

Smaller Army Will Affect Guard and Reserve

By Debbie Gregory.

In facing future security challenges, taking current and future defense strategies and budgetary constraints into consideration, the Army of tomorrow may be smaller and leaner. It may be an Army that is agile, flexible, and rapidly deployable. But tomorrow’s Army may also have an impact on the part-time soldiers in the Army Reserve and National Guard, resulting in more frequent deployments

The Army is looking at ways to blend its active-duty and Reserve branches in a time of tightening budgets.

“After 12 years of war, we need to ask the Army, ‘what capabilities don’t you have now, and what capabilities perhaps do you wish you did?’ ” said Thomas Lamont, one of three members of the National Commission on the Future of the Army. Lamont, a former assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and Reserve affairs, has been interviewing military leaders, observing training and participating in an open forum to hear from veterans.

The commissioners have been traveling around the country, talking to governors who want to maintain a robust National Guard. Ten years ago, approximately 115,000 citizen soldiers were on overseas orders, which limited their ability to respond to domestic emergencies.

Currently, about 10,000 National Guard members are activated for federal assignments, National Guard Chief Gen. Frank Grass is pushing for his troops to do more.

“The Reserve component is not being utilized as much as they would like, and they believe they have capacity and desire to provide a more important role,” Lamont said.

The active-duty Army is shedding about 120,000 soldiers from its peak strength at the end of the Iraq War of about 570,000 troops. The Army drawdown will likely be achieved in large degree by controlling accessions (the number of people allowed to join the Army). If limiting accessions is not enough to achieve the desired end strength targets, the Army can employ a variety of involuntary and voluntary drawdown tools, such as Selective Early Retirement Boards and Reduction-in-Force.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.