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New DOD Policy: mobilization changes not expected to have impact on AFRC.

Changes to the Pentagon's mobilization policy for members of the reserve components aren't likely to have much impact on Air Force Reserve Command's day-to-day operations, according to senior personnel management officials.

On Jan. 11, Department of Defense officials announced several changes designed to make deployments more predictable for members of the guard and reserve and their families. The new policies only apply in situations where there are insufficient numbers of volunteers and involuntary activations are necessary. Since the Air Force Reserve meets the vast majority of its operational requirements using volunteers, which means involuntary activations are not needed, the changes should not have much of an effect on AFRC.

"As long as there are sufficient volunteers, this policy will have minimum impact," said David Holly, chief of the Personnel Readiness Operations Branch at AFRC headquarters, Robins Air Force Base, Ga. "However, even though the impact may not be great, we still have to plan as if the changes could impact us later down the road. We plan to implement the instructions we've received from the secretary of defense. If we don't have to use them, so much the better."

Although the new policies apply to all of (he reserve components. Air Force officials said their main purpose is to give the Army better access to its Reserve and National Guard troops.

"Most of what you read about in the newspapers regarding issues with the guard and reserve do not relate to us," said Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel. "First of all, on any given day, we have twice as many people who are volunteers as people who are mobilized. So it's not much of an issue for us."

Reservists fit into the Air Force's air expeditionary force structure for deployments, typically performing 120-day rotations, although some tours are for 179 or 365 days. Some locations even allow the 120-day tour to be split. These reasonably short tours are one of the reasons AFRC hasn't had a problem getting volunteers.

The biggest change to the mobilization policy involves the amount of time people can be called to active duty. Prior to the Jan. 11 DOD announcement, the policy, which was established after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, was members of the reserve components could not be called up to active duty for more than 24 months cumulatively during any single declared emergency, such as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The new policy eliminates the 24-month limitation during an emergency. The new standard is to involuntarily activate members of the reserve components one year out of every six. Pentagon officials acknowledge that this is only a goal and that call-ups may be more frequent to meet mission requirements. The 12-month activation period does not include any spin-up training time or leave.

"People will only be mobilized for 12 months at one time," Mr. Holly said. "Once that's done, they are going into what is being called a 'dwell time'--a period covering five years when they are not to be mobilized."

One of the provisions of the policy-states the needs of the services will take precedence over this policy.

"If an individual's AFSC (Air Force specialty code) is critically needed to fulfill mission requirements, then that person could be recalled within the five-year dwell time," Mr. Holly said.

Activation of someone during the dwell lime is not going to be done on a whim, Mr. Holly said.

"It must be fully justified and approved at the highest level," he said.

At (he (an. 11 press conference. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he recognized that today's global demands will require a number of selected guard and reserve units to be remobilized sooner than this standard.

"Our intention is that such exceptions be temporary," Secretary Gales said.

In (he event a unit is required to extend a deployment beyond 12 months, the Department of Defense is planning to compensate the people who are affected.

Secretary Gates said a program will be put in place to "compensate individuals in both active and reserve components who are required to mobilize or deploy early or extend beyond the established rotation policy goals."

"Right now we have not seen the final compensation package," Mr. Holly said.

Another change in the policy calls for members of the reserve components to be mobilized as part of a unit rather than on an individual basis.

"This change will allow us to achieve greater unit cohesion and predictability in how reserve units train and deploy," Secretary Gates said.

Air Force Reservists are already used to this mobilization strategy.

"In the past, we have mobilized IMAs (individual mobilization augmentees) as individuals, but unit personnel have mobilized as UTCs (unit type codes)," Mr. Holly said. UTCs are packages or groupings of people organized to provide a specific combat capability. "We would expect unit mobilization will apply to other services, and we will continue, with approval of the secretary of defense, to mobilize based on UTCs."

Although this new policy will not immediately impact a great number of Reservists, there will he some who will be affected by the change. For these people. Mr. Holly pointed out some advantages.

"I think the positive side to (his policy-is people will have an understanding of when they will be mobilized for future operations," Mr. Holly said. "They know that unless there is an emergency situation, they have five years when they won't be mobilized again, so they can do things like family planning with much more confidence and certainty."

By Master Sgt. Chance C. Babin
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Babin, Chance C.
Publication:Citizen Airman
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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