Why aren’t the Guard and Reserves being mobilized “for the duration” of the War on Terror? Now that we have passed the period of time of active combat of WW2, why haven’t we? We mobilized the Guard in October 1941 as a part of the Preparedness Movement along with a peace time draft and call up of Reservists to fill out the ranks.
Federal Law for a long time required that members of the Reserves and Guard be trained and called up as units. In an “administrative rewrite” of the law, that provision seems to have fallen through the cracks. Most “units” being called up today are cherry picked lists of specified individuals arrayed in a document called a “derivative UIC”. This is the Pentagon’s lip service made to that older law and to disguise the fact that too many Guard and Reserve field grades in command slots constitutes an apparent threat to sensitive Regular careerists.
The image of the disorderly retreat of the village militia in our early wars still plagues us, and image that ceased to be accurate during the Civil War. The competence of Civil War units and commanders is paid homage to world wide in the studies of their campaigns. As in that war, the senior commanders of both sides often were professionals who had returned to civilian life or whose excellence in battle was different from their previous military experience. Lee was an engineer, Jackson an artillery man, both masters of maneuver.
As in those days, the core of the leadership of the Guard and Reserves, officer and enlisted, is made of up former Regulars, often with astounding combat experience. The majority of academy graduates do not stay on active duty, and large numbers of them finish their careers in the Guard and Reserves. The USAFR, until recently, took no non-prior service personnel. Their TOE’s reflect that, unlike the other services.
So, people ask, what does the average Guard and Reservist person or unit look like? The answer is that it depends on the person or unit. The range of quality, if measured statistically, has a standard deviation several times that of the more compact Regular services. There are units and personnel in the Guard and Reserves who are a standing embarrassment, and those whose excellence is over the top. I have served in both types.
Since most Guard and Reserve folks are prior service, it is wisest to view them as the Post-Graduate Force, while the Regulars are the Under Graduates. This view is enhanced by the fact that most in the Guard and Reserves are older, more mature, and have life experiences that focus on the chaos of civilian life which replicates the chaos and confusion of the battlefield.
Recent criticisms of the US Army as a whole is that it is not focused on the skills needed to fight the War on Terror. This is due to the separation of those skills into the non-union Guard and Reserve pile. Belated recognition of this is the recent creation of Psyops and Civil Affairs as Regular Army branches. Too late for any good, and too risky for a Regular to risk his career over in the after Iraq Army.
It would have made too much sense to mobilize the structure in place to form an Army capable of transitioning Iraq into a more democratic form. It would have required creating several two star Civil Affairs/Military Government structures with sufficient MP, Psyop, Engineer, and combat forces to make it work. Once Baghdad had fallen, the combat units would be gradually be made into regional, local, and national reaction forces until the Iraq Army had been stood up.
The Army reserves have the capability of training the entire Iraqi structure. These elements, like all others, have been committed piece meal. So logical is this approach, one has to ask why wasn’t it even considered? And the answer to this is not so buried in recent past.
And the problem arises from what one does with wartime troops when the war is over. The historical modus operandi was that the state militia was mobilized, placed under federal control, and after the war went home to parades, and political office. A militia colonel kept his rank and as an honorific made good press. The problem came with the Regulars who took temporary ranks as militia officers, US volunteers (like Teddy Roosevelt), or “brevet” rank like the old “acting jack” of Basic Training. After the war that temporary rank came off, which was a serious embarrassment which at Little Big Horn cost a few scalps. This continued through WW1 in which many Regular Majors reverted to Captain. After WW2, the size of the occupation forces reduced the impact of Reduction in Grade (RIG),
After Korea, the Army resorted to Reductions in Force (RIF) to purge the Active force of excess reservists. I lost two company commanders in 1958, one went to corporal and the other to sergeant. In those days, officers could revert to an enlisted rank. Legend of the time had it that a Lt Col got off his plane in Berlin as a civilian and the Army refused to ship his house hold good home. The Reserve Officers Association (ROA) pushed a law through Congress that locked a soldier in for his or her twenty year retirement on achieving eighteen years of service. This we call the Eighteen Year Lock-in.
There were too many former officers in the enlisted ranks in the late Fifties and Sixties that the Army barred officers who had no former Regular service from enlisting. At that time, the ranks were stalled for promotion. It took seven years from 1st Lt to Captain, and it was a rare bird that made Lt Col before retirement. The problem was considered acute as too many of the officers on active duty were not Regulars. A plan was devised to use the Up or Out System to purge the Reserves before the lock in. Then came the deluge, and the plan was deferred.
In 1961, twenty years from 1941, the numbers of soldiers reaching twenty year retirement started to climb fast. By 1965 is was a torrent. The middle ranks were emptying out. And them came Vietnam with a simultaneous explosion of the need for troops of all kinds. In 1960 there were company commanders with the superannuated age of 35 close to retirement, and by 1970 some company commanders had two whole years of time in service. After nearly a decade of combat over half of the officers on active duty were Guard and Reserve officers on extended active duty, “voluntary indefinite” it was called.
After four RIF’s between 1970 and 1974, the old plan was resurrected and in the promotion boards of 1974-76 for Major and Lt Col were constituted (illegally it turns out) without an “appropriate” number of Reserve Officers. The selection rate for combat experienced Reserve Majors was ten percent, and thirty percent for Captains for promotion to the next higher grade. It is significant that a lower percentage was set for those in imminent reach of retirement.
A group calling itself The Promotion Research Committee, chaired by Major Maxfield, USA, was formed to find out why and filed suit over age discrimination and improper composition. The brains of the operation was former “company” employee, Nancy Maxfield, who later retired from the White House staff. I was the Congressional mouth, which accounts for both my sensitivity to the subject and exposure to the depths of depravity and deceit that the Personnel Puke will sink to. This was exported to the Corporate Sector as “down sizing” and “out sourcing”.
The Army, in it’s haste to purge the Reserves, blew a gigantic whole in the mid ranks of the Army’s officer corps. Recently commissioned lieutenants who had been accepted for six month tours were involuntarily extended for two years to flood the lower ranks to the upward suction the purge had created.
The Promotion Research Committee won in court, restoring some to active duty, and sensitized the Congress to the point that in the After Desert Storm Downsize, they deflected the Pentagon from repeating the RIF/Up or Out paradigm and forced an early out program into effect.
Having learned this harsh lesson, the Pentagon has devised the perfect plan to avoid messy law suits and costly early out programs. The Guard and Reserves aren’t allowed in the Active Army, which is now for Regulars only. The troops in the War on Terror are still in the Guard and Reserves, their rating chains still trace their ways back to the Armory or Reserve Center in Allville.
This is a reversion to the paradigm we used as late as the Spanish American War and which proved inadequate for export and was dropped in the Dick Act of 1908. But al least, the Pentagon is not faced with the messy problem of dumping embarrassingly competent non-union labor. And as a result of maintaining the Purity of Essence of the Regular Establishment, has engineered something tottering on defeat.