True story: Two amphibious squadron chiefs of staff commiserate over coffee about being short of people. "You know," Ted says, "thank God for my reserve unit. I have those guys filling gaps in my staff, and I don't know how we'd get through our exercises without them flying in from Alabama to stand watches 24/7. Plus, they do our periodic instruction updates off-site, and teach us stuff from their civilian jobs that we'd never know otherwise. Good thing they gave every amphibious squadron staff a reserve unit. What do you do with your reserve unit, Bill?" Bill answers, "I have a reserve unit?"
The Navy needs its leaders to be like Ted. This primer will help get everyone going in that direction.
A Seamless Team
Fifteen years ago, the reserves were a force in waiting, standing by to man-up for the next world war. Our identification cards were pink, not green. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the reserves shifted to a paradigm of peacetime contributory support—we tried to help active commands as much as we could, while still waiting to do our call-up when the balloon went up for the next big one. Today, the paradigm is seamless integration. Our motto is: "Support to the Fleet . . . Ready and Fully Integrated!" Our goal is to become an integral part of the Navy—no more active and reserve, just Navy, full-time and part-time, and sometimes part-timers working full-time.
But a tango takes two. Total force integration takes willing and able reservists, and a willing and knowledgeable supported command prepared to invest the time and effort in its reserve component. If done right, that investment will reap returns many times over, for both parties.
For Flag and Commanding Officers
1. Take Ownership: You own your reserves, whether or not you choose to acknowledge it. Would you let 10% of your work force sit idle and unattended, wasting the taxpayer's dollar and increasing the workload for the remaining 90%? Of course not. But many active commanders take that tack with their reserve assets. (Note Bill in first paragraph.) The reservists assigned to your command do not belong to themselves, or their reserve center, or Commander, Naval Reserve Force—they belong to you.
2. Get Rid of Your Old Ideas: This ain't your father's Oldsmobile. Any notions you developed about reserves 20 years ago are outdated and inappropriate and usually wrong. Yes, there still are some reservists who sit in reserve centers reading the paper, and there are instances in which a reservist will show up at an active command and be a burden instead of a help. But for every mistake like that, there are ten examples in which a reservist provides as much or more support, pound for pound, dollar for dollar, hour for hour, than his active counterpart. An example is Strike Fighter Squadron 201, an F/A-18 reserve squadron from Fort Worth, recalled during Iraqi Freedom to serve on board the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). They flew 324 combat missions and led Carrier Air Wing Eight in target acquisition, destruction of targets attacked, sortie completion rates, and landing grades. Not bad for a bunch of part-timers.
3. Remember Who's the Boss: You active-duty full-timers are the bosses. Reserves exist only to make your lives easier. Do not be too bashful to wade into the situation and take charge. You are the boss, and the reserves are chomping at the bit to help you, if you only will give some guidance.
4. Just Ask: When in doubt, ask. Want something? Ask. A one-star regional commander asked a reserve commander on his staff, "I'm going to Russia soon. Got anybody who can teach me Russian?" A week later, a reserve Navy captain who happened to be a Russian-language professor during the week was sitting in front of the admiral, to begin weekly lessons. Emboldened, the admiral asked: "Got a reserve officer who's a lawyer who knows environmental law for my Superfund sites?" Again, he got what he wanted. No funding required; no orders required; no waiting. All he had to do was ask.
On a larger scale, a two-star commander with 500 active military and 7,000 civilians decided he needed more uniformed representation at the waterfront and on afloat units. He asked his entire 500-person reserve force to transform from office workers to waterfront command representatives, and he essentially doubled his ability to put uniformed people in front of his fleet customers. Command happier; reservists happier; fleet happier. All because he asked.
5. Provide Strategic Direction: Think of reserves as a temporary part-time force, and think how you can employ them. To augment your existing force? To perform separate functions from your active force? To fill in during surge requirements? The most critical part of successful reserve integration is the commander's choice of how to use them. Ask too much, and frustration will result. Ask too little, and you will get boredom and inefficiency.
6. Select a Reserve Liaison Officer: Pick a great person to be your reserve liaison officer (RLO), then give him a new title. Echelon 3 commands will have a reserve RLO assigned by the full-time support (previously TAR) community; others will just pick someone on the staff to be in charge of their reserve component. Three rules:
- Pick someone dynamic, not just someone who happens to understand reserve administration, or who happens to be a fifth wheel elsewhere in your organization.
- Call him the reserve employment officer, or the seamless integration officer, or some such. His job is not to liaison with the reserves like they were foreign dignitaries or extraterrestrial beings, but to build them into your work force and make them a productive part of your team.
- Tell the seamless integration officer he can learn all he needs to know about reserve administration by talking to the reservists. Period. You decide what to do. The reserves will figure out how to do it.
Better yet, if you really want to seamlessly integrate, consider not having a designated person to liaise with or employ the reserves. Make everyone in your active command responsible for reserve employment and integration. Make it part of your commander's expectations, and reward those who do it best.
7. Copy Best Practices: If you are fourth-quartile in reserve integration, find a nearby command that is first-quartile, that "gets it" and knows how to make it happen. Copy them. Examples include Special Warfare and Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR). For more examples, check http://reserves.navy.mil/ (Commander Naval Reserve), and Tip 4: Just Ask. continue reading
The Reserve Force
Reservists come in many flavors. The entire reserve force numbers 630,000 men and women, and consists of the Retired Reserve (470,000), the Standby Reserve (4,000), and the Ready Reserve (153,000). The Ready Reserve—those who are ready to be activated within days—include the Individual Ready Reserve (65,000) and the Selected Reserve (88,000). Individual Ready Reservists typically do not drill, get paid, or belong to units, although they are available for recall based on special skills or needs. Selected Reservists belong to units and drill every month—they are the most familiar. An average reservist gets paid roughly one-tenth of his active-duty counterpart.
The 88,000 Selected Reservists (SelRes) today comprise about 19% of our total Navy force, at a cost of about 4% of the budget. Selected Reservists can be further broken down into two main categories: full-time support and drilling reservists. Some in the Selected Reserve work full-time to help train and administer the part-timers. These personnel, previously known as TARs (Training and Administration of Reserves), today are called FTS, for full-time support. Of our SelRes, about 76,000 are drilling reservists, and 12,000 are FTS. Of the FTS, at any given time, a third are in normal active-duty Navy billets; the remainder are on staffs or in reserve centers, involved with managing the 76,000 drilling reservists.
These reservists do everything you can imagine, and a few things you might not—driving ships, flying planes, building buildings, performing surgery, moving supplies, guarding bases, fixing networks, monitoring satellites, standing Pentagon staff watches, fixing environmental problems, handling ordnance, predicting weather, writing press releases, protecting harbors, presenting the flag at 10,000 World War II Navy veteran funerals a year. Cryppies, chaplains, SEALs, lawyers, intel types, welders, divers, dentists, linguists, Seabees—everything the Navy does is found in the reserves. And some capabilities exist only in the reserves: fleet support airlift, naval coastal warfare, inshore undersea warfare, naval embarked advisory teams, and naval control of shipping. But to slice and dice those 76,000 part-timers, think in three flavors: augment units, commissioned units, and special-purpose units.
Augment units typically support and belong to an existing active-duty command: a Navy base, an amphibious squadron staff, a hospital, a regional commander, a ship. Commissioned units are a military command unto themselves, and typically own hardware. Examples include reserve air squadrons and fleet hospitals. These commands often have several active-duty members working all month long, with the majority of the unit as part-timers, although that might mean 60-100 days of duty per year. Special purpose units are used only for circumstances that occur so infrequently that it is more cost-effective to maintain that capability primarily in the reserves. Think cargo loading, BeachMasters, and civil government units.
Reserve headcounts are split about 80% surface and 20% air. The air folks predominantly are in hardware units, and the surface assets are everything that is not air, including all nonline units such as supply and medical.
11. Take Administrative Ownership: Some commands (Special Warfare, SPAWAR, and others) have set up virtual reserve centers within their own active commands to administratively handle reserve pay, travel, orders, mobilization readiness, government travel credit cards, etc., which traditionally have been the purview of reserve centers. If you can support that investment, it can pay great dividends in reserve operational support.
12. Get Involved in Apply: Apply is the annual board in Millington in which all reserve commander and captain billets and all reserve commanding officer jobs are boarded each summer, in preparation for the traditional 1 October tour start/end date. Last year, 6,000 officers applied for positions: 4,900 were boarded; 1,700 got paying billets—500 of those were commanding officer positions. You cannot pick your reserve unit commanding officer, but you can tell the president of the board your specific requirements, and you can ask for veto power over the board's selection. The more involved you are, the better the outcome for your command.
13. Use the Active Budget to Support Your Reservists: If reserve travel budgets are depleted, have them travel on your dime, but get paid for time through the reserves. If they need laptops, buy them out of your budget. If they will get more work done by having a weekly conference call between units, give them a phone conference funding code. A little active-duty money can go a long way in increasing reserve effectiveness.
14. Assign Real Work: Find real work that your reserves can do well, within their time and location constraints. At first blush, you will think, "There is not much they can do." If you work hard with them to explore innovative approaches, you will find there is not much they cannot do. In particular, do not use recalled reservists to do BS work you would not have your active members do. Mess cranking is not a reason to recall a reservist.
15. Provide Training Assistance: Your reservists will be better able to serve you if you specify what tasks you want them to perform and what training you want them to have, and if you help them get it. Conversely, your reserves probably have skills your command does not (particularly in information technology), and you should use them to train your folks. Special Warfare, for instance, is moving to reserves as long-term permanent experts in niche areas (such as snipers), who will train the active duty.
16. Include Reservists in the Organizational Chart: Show your reserves on your active-duty command organization chart and recall bill. If they are not on the active-duty chart, they are not really part of your command.
17. Use Technology to Integrate Your Reservists: People do not have to sit in a room next to you to be useful anymore. Telecommuting, weekday drills, video teleconferencing, conference calls, e-mail, chat, Navy Knowledge Online—a reservist 200 miles away can be as much a part of your command as a sailor 200 feet away.
18. Take Care of Your Reservists: They are your people. Ask, periodically, "What can we do to help take care of our reserve folks?" Generally, they can handle their own issues for medical, pay, family problems, etc., but it always helps to ask. Sometimes a single call from an active command can break loose a reserve or civilian logjam.
19. Take Extra Care of Recalled Reservists: It is one thing to deploy as a unit; it is quite another to be the only person in town to deploy on a recall, especially if the family does not have local Navy support and experience. Appoint a recall ombudsman to be in close check with families of recalled reservists. Again, they are your folks.
20. Structure Your Reserve Force: Active commands have tremendous leeway in structuring the billets within their reserve components. You can dictate how many reservists you want, what ranks and rates, what qualifications, and, to a certain extent, their location. If yours is not the way you want it, change it! Don't know how? Ask.
Apply these suggestions at your command, and you will build a seamless full-time/part-time Navy team. If you do not use your reservists effectively, you will lose them to a command that will.
Captain Wray was a surface nuke for 7 years and has been a reservist for 17 years, commanding four reserve units. He is assigned as Deputy Commander for Mission Effectiveness, Naval Reserve Readiness Command Northeast. In civilian life he is an energy engineer.