National Guard, Reserve Feeling The Strain Of War




 
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December 16th, 2006  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: National Guard, Reserve Feeling The Strain Of War


Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)
December 16, 2006
By Dave Montgomery and Drew Brown, McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON The nation's National Guard and Reserve forces are displaying signs of strain after five years of deployments in what has become the biggest active-duty mobilization since the Korean War.
More than 500,000 Guard and Reserve troops have served in active duty since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and they've made up nearly half of the force fighting against terrorists and in combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many Guard units are struggling with chronic equipment shortages and funding problems that threaten their ability to respond to disaster and other emergencies in their home states. Thousands of reservists are serving in patchwork units cobbled together in piecemeal fashion from other units, often with little or no sense of cohesion.
"I think you're seeing the leading-edge indicators of strain and fraying the edges," said Arnold L. Punaro, a retired Marine Corps general who chairs a commission looking into a possible overhaul of the Guard and Reserve. "And, yes, they are doing a good job of recruiting and retention, but at what cost and how long can they sustain it?"
Pressing for more troops
The widening concerns over the reserve component come at a time when U.S. military leaders are pressing for even more Guard and Reserve reinforcements to help ease the pressure on active-duty forces.
Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's top general, warned Punaro's commission Thursday that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq "will break" the active-duty force unless the Pentagon changes its mobilization policy to allow more involuntary call-ups from the Guard and Reserve. Schoomaker also wants to add thousands of active-duty personnel.
Lt. Gen. David Poythress, the state adjutant general for the Georgia National Guard, said he agreed with Schoomaker that changes are needed in the Army's structure since it's configured to fight high-intensity, short-duration wars, not the grinding guerrilla conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he expressed concern that the National Guard may be carrying too much of the load.
"You need readily available manpower on both the active and the reserve side," Poythress said. "There is a danger of breaking the Army, but there is an equivalent danger of breaking the Guard. Guardsmen don't sign up to be full-time soldiers."
Civilian life beckons many
Reserve advocates are noticing indications that 30-something junior officers and non-commissioned officers are thinking about pulling the plug on their reserve status in order keep from falling behind on the civilian career ladder.
"They're at a point in their civilian career where they're making their mark," said Lt. Gen. Charles G. Rodriguez of Austin, adjutant general for the Texas National Guard. "Now is the time for them to punch their tickets and do all the hard things in their civilian jobs. If they're not there, they can't punch those tickets."
Of the 88,500 mobilized, California has the largest contingent (4,559), followed by Texas (3,935), Pennsylvania (3,578) and Minnesota (3,079).
The Army National Guard and the Army Reserve represent the biggest share of deployments but all of the other services also have sent thousands of their reservists into active-duty service.
 


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