Paperwork is Choking the Reserves

By Chief Signalman Timothy S. Baxter, U.S. Naval Reserve

The lunch period is another area that needs reform. The $12 allotted for the weekend lunches should be included in drill pay; reservists should be able to fend for themselves. Or we could save the government some money by eliminating the allowance altogether.

Then there is the urinalysis testing. Every drill weekend, two numbers are picked randomly to provide samples. This is both expensive and time consuming. While I realize that we still have people who use drugs in our ranks, I would venture that a reservist is unlikely to use them because we drill voluntarily, and few would jeopardize their careers on the chance of getting hit on the urinalysis. If this testing cannot be eliminated, at least let us reduce it to once a quarter or twice a year.

Some of these issues may appear petty, but that's the point. Petty issues rob the reservist of that one thing we have little of-time. Training has to be our number one priority. Reservists should demand no less than 80% production and training. As one solution to the paper backlog, each unit should have a yeoman or personnel man to administer paperwork better. Of course, some paperwork is needed for accurate record-keeping, but when paperwork takes precedence over training, our national defense is jeopardized.

At present, the reservists and the regulars are not one Navy, and never can be unless realistic training is maximized. For example, I drilled with a Military Sealift Command Unit for nearly four years prior to being mobilized for Desert Storm. The majority of my training consisted of outdated classroom lectures on World War II tactics and plans. When we went to our port of operations upon mobilization, we discovered that we were not well versed in real-time military sealift operations. To our unit's credit, we adjusted quickly and played an integral part in the logistics of the Gulf War, and incorporated valuable lessons into our training upon demobilization.

The reservists have to be more creative in their training opportunities. For example, we contacted an Army Reserve Military Traffic Management Command Unit, which drills in our area, and we trained with them. Units that drill near-or on-Navy installations obviously have an advantage over those that cannot, but that should not discourage a search for other alternatives. In an era of joint operations, we should look to the other services for help in meeting our training needs.

How can these changes best be brought about? By starting with those who do the bulk of the actual mission of the unit. The units then go to the reserve center staff. TARS (Training and Administration of Reserves) who exist to serve the reservists in meeting their mobilization readiness qualification, too often are regarded as the enemy. We must take advantage of them.

We need to get out of the classroom and conduct real hands-on training. As a chief signalman in a Naval Embarked Advisory Team Unit, I have not touched a signal light in two years! While we have conducted some Morse code drills on a computer, to remain professional a person needs to see and feel the real equipment to be properly trained. Too often we get caught up in the petty administrative duties of a drill weekend and lose sight of the big picture. These administrative assignments come from the one Navy mentality that says everything the active side does, we must duplicate. The inspections, physical readiness tests, evaluations, and all the other undiluted Navy admin comes from the fleet and consumes a good portion of the training of the weekend. Our two-week training period should not be used to get one's medical and personnel files in order.

To solve this problem will require each reservist to evaluate honestly his or her own role in the unit and to take on more responsibility.

 

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