Deployment Stress on Guard, Reserve Has Lessened, Hall Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2007 - The stress of repeated overseas deployments for National Guard and Reserve members has lessened in recent years, the Defense Department's reserve-component chief told a special commission today at a Capitol Hill hearing.

"We have relieved the stress on the (Guard and Reserve) force in the past couple of years," Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, told members of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves.

Established in 2005, Congress charged the commission to recommend any needed changes in law and policy to ensure the Guard and Reserves are organized, trained, equipped, compensated and supported to best meet national security needs. Its first official meeting was in March 2006, and its final report to Congress and the defense secretary is due in January 2008.

About 74,000 Guard and Reserve members are currently mobilized in support of the war against terrorism, Hall said. That number, he said, is 120,000-fewer servicemembers mobilized than there were a year-and-a-half ago.

A recent policy change has set the Guard-Reserve length of mobilization to one-year, Hall said, instead of 18 to 21 months.

Also, Guard and Reserve organizations are now mobilized as whole units, Hall said, rather than being "cobbled-together" from different elements and then deployed.

The reserve components intend to create more predictability for servicemembers and families by eventually establishing a mobilization schedule of a one-year deployment followed by five years of stateside service.

"We cannot get there now," Hall acknowledged, referring to the envisioned 1-5 mobilization plan. "But, clearly the Secretary (of Defense Robert M. Gates) has said a 1 and 5 (mobilization policy) in the Guard and Reserve is our goal."

The defense secretary has also directed minimal use of the so-called "Stop-Loss" policy where servicemembers may be required to serve beyond their initial length of duty obligation, Hall noted.

Hall touched upon the recent call up of four National Guard brigade combat teams, a total of 13,000 servicemembers, for service in Iraq. The four Guard units were alerted nine to 12 months before they're expected to deploy, he said.

"What it's going to allow us to do is to get the equipment flowing early, get the training started early, tell the employers and families early, that they might potentially deploy from December through March," Hall said, depending upon the situation on the ground in Iraq.

Hall said he plans to visit each of the BCTs before they deploy to ask if they've the equipment and training dollars they require. This, he said, exemplifies a new mobilization mindset required to support an operational reserve.

"If we're going to make the model of 'train, mobilize and deploy' work, you have to do the training prior to (deployment)," Hall said, noting the law was changed to enable the Guard and Reserve to train for missions as it is called up, or mobilized, before being deployed.

The reserve components are growing, Hall said, noting the Army Guard has added 8,000 new members. And, Guard and Reserve recruiting and retention is also up.

The men and women in the Guard and Reserve "are patriots and they're staying in greater numbers than they ever have since 1991," Hall said.

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