Printer Friendly

At war, navy finds new uses for Reserve forces.

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.

In July, the Navy and Coast Guard established a new joint port-security and harbor-defense force. Naval Coastal Warfare Squadron 34--based at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, Calif.--combines anti-terrorism and force-protection units from the Coast Guard and Naval Reserve that had just returned from deployments in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere.

Naval reservists noted the recent nomination of Vice Adm. Timothy J. Keating to become the next four-star to head both the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Keating, who previously served as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command during the Operation Iraqi Freedom, will be the first admiral to hold the job, which previously went to Air Force generals. Cotton said Keating's selection may reflect a greater emphasis on maritime security.

The Naval Reserves also are participating in a new officer-exchange program with the National Guard and other Reserve components. National Guard Bureau Chief Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum is working to establish a single Guard headquarters, with representatives from all reserve units, in every state and U.S. territory.

"I can see a day when every state will have a Navy reservist on its joint headquarters staff," Cotton said.

To help Navy Reserves handle larger responsibilities, they are getting a infusion of new equipment. In the 2004 budget, they received funding to operate an additional frigate, bringing the total to nine. In addition, the Reserve fleet includes 10 MHC 51 Osprey coastal mine hunters, five mine countermeasure ships, a mine countermeasure support vessel and a landing ship tank. "We're looking at acquiring patrol boats," Cotton added.

In 2004, the Reserves also got money to complete the last two upgrades to their older F/A 18A Hornet fighters, placing them on a par with the fleet's later model F/A-18Cs. The 2004 budget additionally enabled the Reserves to acquire eight Swiss F-5E Tiger fighters to replace aging adversary trainer aircraft.

The Navy Reserves have their own small air force, with 35 squadrons, including carrier-based fighters, maritime patrol aircraft, transports and helicopters.

Cotton is a product of the Reserve's air wing. A graduate of the Naval Academy, he became a third-generation pilot, flying a number of aircraft, including die Hornet. He switched to the Naval Reserve in 1980, becoming a commercial airline pilot.

Cotton took a leave of absence from his civilian job in 2003 to return to active duty as chief of the Naval Reserves, which have played a major role in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 9/11, nearly 23,000 Navy reservists--about 27 percent of the total have been mobilized to serve somewhere around the world, including the Persian Gulf, the Pacific and bases dotted throughout the United States.

More than 12,000 served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some units and equipment were mobilized. But many reservists were called up individually, Cotton said. "For example, 362 drilling reservists were mobilized to augment the staff of the commander of the U.S. Fifth Fleet," he said.

Strike Fighter Squadron 201, from Fort Worth, Texas, deployed aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), marking the first time since the Korean War that an entire Navy Reserve tactical aviation squadron served aboard an aircraft carrier.

When the Navy's hospital ship, UNS Comfort deployed to the Persian Gulf, its crew included 800 active duty medical personnel from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. During their absence, their positions at the center were filled, in part, by 548 reservists. Another 592 reservists were assigned to the Marine Corps to serve as medical corpsmen on the battlefield.

Some of the casualties treated by those corpsmen were Navy, reservists, Cotton said. In July, he flew down to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., to present Purple Heart Medals to 16 members of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14. The Seabees, along with four others, were wounded seriously in two separate insurgent attacks in Iraq. The other four, who remain hospitalized, already have received their medals. Seven Seabees were killed during the attacks.

Altogether during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Navy deployed 164 ships worldwide--more than half of the 295 vessels in the U.S. fleet. Navy officials want to maintain this ability to "surge" to deploy large numbers of ships quickly--in response to world crises.

The Navy demonstrated this concept earlier this year when it launched Summer Pulse 04. This exercise, which involved deployment of seven aircraft carrier strike groups to five regional theaters, was supported by an estimated 80 reservists.

Typically, Cotton noted, reservists are older than active-duty sailors. "The average reservist is in his or her mid-30s, a decade older than most active-duty sailors," he said.

Many reservists bring civilian skills to the Navy, Cotton said. In their civilian careers, many have established expertise in such fields as computer technology, security operations, business practices and foreign languages.

Altogether, the Navy has identified 800 civilian skills among reservists that don't exist in the active-duty service, Cotton said.

Sometimes, those skills come in handy, he said. "For example, who would have thought, five years ago, that we would need thousands of Arabic speakers?"

Reservists are also a bargain, Cotton said. Serving 24 drill days and 14 training days per year, they cost only 20 percent of what the Navy pays for active-duty personnel, he said.

Navy reservists today make up only a small portion of U.S. military services, especially compared to previous wars. During World War I, the Navy had 300,000 reservists. In World War II, four out of five sailors were reservists.

Currently, reservists represent only about 19 percent of the people in the Navy, which has approximately 375,000 men and women on active duty. Marine reservists number about 40,000, also 19 percent of all Marines.

National Guard, Army and Air Force Reserves make up a much larger portion of Army and Air Force personnel. Army National Guard and Reserves include 555,000, or 54 percent of the overall number in the Army, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves total roughly 18,000, or 34 percent of the Air Force.

The number of Naval Reserves actually will shrink by 2,500 in fiscal year 2005. As part of the realignment process, coastal warfare units are being transferred from reserve to active-component status, a fleet hospital decommissioned and medical billets reduced.

Nevertheless, the Navy's reliance upon its reserves is certain to grow ,as the service seeks to reduce its active duty force from a current 375,000 to 350,000. The reduction is necessary to hold down personnel costs, which "have increased 40 percent since I have been CNO," Clark told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
COPYRIGHT 2004 National Defense Industrial Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Navy Reserves
Author:Kennedy, Harold
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2004
Previous Article:Air ambulance more than a life saver.
Next Article:Special operations forces pursue technologies for the urban fight.

Related Articles
Armed Services Freshmen Gun for More Defense Dollars.
Reservists Called Up for Homeland Defense.
Exporting our "first responders": local police and emergency personnel man the front lines of "homeland defense"--yet tens of thousands have been...
Contention sure to persist between Pentagon, news people: Gulf War II brought a new relationship between military and the press.
DAU takes training to Naval reservists serving in acquisition-related billets.
599th Transportation Group supports RSOI '05.
Defense debate must recognize tough realities.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters