SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Illinois – The nation’s first joint reserve unit marked its 30th anniversary this fall, highlighting the success of what the Joint Staff considered in 1991 as a “prototype” for the unified commands in the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).
The mission of the Joint Transportation Reserve Unit (JTRU) is to augment the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) in providing air, land and sea transportation for the DOD, both in times of peace and war.
Currently led by Army Brig. Gen. Cheryn L. Fasano, JTRU consists of 198 reservists from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. In her other role, Fasano is the mobilization assistant to the USTRANSCOM commander, Air Force Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost.
“Warfighting readiness remains our number one priority, and the complexity of future operations will be immense,” said Van Ovost. “We need to operate at a speed and scale that we’ve never seen before.
“That’s where our JTRU offers USTRANSCOM an immense advantage, not only through augmentation of manpower and joint military proficiency, but also civilian work perspective: Diverse, empowered teams lead to better decisions and results.”
The decision to create the JTRU team came not long after USTRANSCOM was stood up in 1987. Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991) was the command’s first big test as DOD’s single manager for air, land and sea transportation during war, and one of USTRANSCOM’s most important lessons learned was the value of reserve support. The expertise it gained from having a mix of services in its reserve augmentation proved invaluable.
Consequently, on Sept. 7, 1991, then-USTRANSCOM commander, Air Force Gen. Hansford “H. T.” Johnson, signed a memo activating the JTRU at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, effective Oct. 1, 1991.
Creating the Joint Transportation Reserve Unit
Built around Naval Reserve USTRANSCOM Detachment 118, a St. Louis-based unit assigned to USTRANSCOM, the new joint unit included all the authorized USTRANSCOM reserve augmentation of 65 Selected Reserve billets and 31 Joint Mobilization Augmentees, evenly distributed between the Army, Navy, and Air Force plus three new Marine Corps billets.
In the command’s view at the time, mobilization readiness could be best achieved if all reservists, regardless of service affiliation, trained as one unit. It was especially important to USTRANSCOM that the unit trained the way it would fight. An additional advantage: Reservists bring a civilian skill set and perspective that only enhance command strength and capability.
In the 30 years since its activation, the JTRU has supported USTRANSCOM’s efforts in humanitarian relief and contingency operations, including two major mobilizations. The first mobilization activated approximately 55 Reservists to USTRANSCOM, Afghanistan, and Iraq in the months after Sept. 11, 2001. The “prototype” unit the Joint Staff envisioned in 1991 has since earned 11 Joint Meritorious Unit Awards from the DOD as of Sept. 30, 2020.
Most recently, nearly 70 JTRU reservists mobilized in support of government efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 198 members of the unit, that’s more than a third of its members.
Reservists have historically aided the command’s efforts in humanitarian relief support in the United States and around the globe, including several members supporting the historic non-combatant evacuation operations in Afghanistan this year, known as Operation Allies Refuge (OAR).
Fasano stressed the relevancy of the JTRU to the success of USTRANSCOM’s mission. She referred to a comment by Van Ovost at a recent meeting to start by asking, “Why?”
“Why does the JTRU exist?” Fasano asked her troops to consider. “JTRU exists to support USTRANSCOM. That simple. To augment the command. This year’s mobilizations, being part of OAR, and executing our new drill model to integrate more fully with our active-duty counterparts all concretely show that together, we deliver.”
USTRANSCOM exists as a warfighting combatant command to project and sustain military power at a time and place of the nation’s choosing. Powered by dedicated men and women, USTRANSCOM underwrites the lethality of the Joint Force, advances American interests around the globe, and provides our nation’s leaders with strategic flexibility to select from multiple options, while creating multiple dilemmas for our adversaries.