by COL (R) R. Brian Williams
As we look to the next decade and what the military — particularly the Reserve Component — will look like and what it will do, it would help to have a crystal ball. Lacking that, we can instead look at where we’ve been to help predict where we are going and what needs to be done while avoiding snags along the way.
First things first, expect the RC tobe on a continual cycle of demand and decline. It was always amusing to watch the budget and QDR guys sitting around, scheming about how to save money by cutting the RC; meanwhile, the guys across the hall were begging for more and more use of the RC as the active forces were being used to the max. Now that is the kind of conflict that is most amusing, as those two parties never seem to talk. One side knows “all about you” since they worked with the RC in the 1970s before they retired 30 years ago. These “experts in RC” have their knives out and are constantly looking to slice and dice. Get ready for cuts, but keep those bags ready, ‘cause we really need ya!
Be careful of the kinds of missions you sign up for. The structure of most of the RC, with exceptions, is built around formations to support the geographic combatant commander’s plan. Units or people can be mobilized to fulfill these requirements, and over the past decade, have done an outstanding job. But beware — the jobs assigned can work against you in the long run. A great example of this was the NG’s combat brigades and the roles they were asked to mobilize for in Iraq and Afghanistan. From training missions to providing security to bases, FOBs and airfields, those brigades did wonderful jobs and were proud to be called upon to do them, but — wait for it — there was a hidden downside to this. In recent years, the wonderful people who continually work those previously mentioned force structure drawdowns have said that those brigades can be reduced because they really aren’t relevant and are not needed. The whispers in the Pentagon halls told of “those NG guys and how they couldn’t do a real mission.” Benevolently, they “let” those RC guys be gate guards. It was all the Guard guys were capable of — “after all, just look at the deployments…” Now that is a real kick in the pants, doing a great job and then having it held against you. Continue to do those missions assigned to you to the best of your abilities, but know there are such thoughtful people advising civilian appointees.
One other thing we must consider is how all of you out in “flyover country” act. Don’t worry about everything going on in the country or world, those on both coasts know best and are here to take care of you. I am always aghast to hear one of our leaders slip and mention that if it were not for those people in flyover country, we could get some real progress done. Your needs in your communities and armories are secondary to the “big picture” and if you would just get onboard, things would work out for the better. Yes, these big thinkers are not only out there, they often have the ear of your leaders. Watch out for them and make sure your leader knows that they really do exist. There is great danger in the sublime ways.
Helping out grandma on the roof isn’t sexy and who would want to do it? Why should we pay for a RC to put out fires or pass out water bottles after an earthquake? Watch out for these naysayers and their ilk. The great thinkers and really cool guys with lots of badges think less of someone in uniform who performs these missions, but when it is their grandma, a sudden sense of urgency comes to light. Our RC is a wonderfully equipped and a wellmanaged tool that provides much needed services to our communities in times of need. Don’t let the “experts” tell you otherwise and take those armories out of your towns. A member of the RC will not only need a place to conduct drills, but also need a place to marshal out of when disaster strikes. When the tornado hits or the earthquakes strike, all the cool HALO/ scuba/ sniper guys will be looking for you to go get their relatives off the roof of the barn, and you had better be well-versed and quick to it.
Our future in the RC is bright, but as we look to the future, keep some lessons in mind and guard against those who wish to do nothing more than eliminate you. You will always be needed and you will always be called into question by those who don’t know you, don’t care to know you or what you really do and want to do away with you. Be ready, be realistic and have your bags packed.
—COL (R) R. Brian Williams recently retired after 30 years in the Army, as an active duty Solider, M-Day National Guardsman and AGR officer. His assignments have included ones at NORTHCOM, working on the Joint Staff for the CNGB and teaching at the U.S. Army War College.