DARIEN, Ill. (Nov. 5, 2013) -- As soon as Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley walked through the doors of the Parkhurst U.S. Army Reserve Center here, Nov. 1, he paused to look at the hallways that sprawled in different directions.
"Things have changed," said the chief of Army Reserve with a reminiscing tone.
This wasn't his first visit to the 416th Theater Engineer Command headquarters building. In 2003 he deployed to Iraq as the chief of operations for this command.
Ten years later, he came with a different purpose: he received an operational brief from the 416th TEC commander, and he opened the floor to a town hall meeting. During the town hall session, he invited more than 60 Soldiers to ask whatever questions were on their minds.
"I like the fact he didn't have talking points. He allowed the audience to lead the discussion," said Master Sgt. Dina Sharp, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the G6 for the 416th TEC, which is responsible for information technology and support.
For a man who commands 205,000 Soldiers in the Army Reserve across the U.S. to take the time to visit troops in person, it shows that he really puts the needs of Soldiers first, said Sharp.
"He's available and accessible," she said. In fact, she even received his personal business card to help her address a concern she brought up during the town hall.
Soldiers asked questions on a whole array of topics. He reassured Soldiers that there was no plan in place to merge the National Guard with the Army Reserve, since the function of each force serves a different purpose. Each state has its own National Guard, and each one falls under the orders of the state governor; meanwhile the Army Reserve is a federal force, and its command structure spans across all states.
"He was obviously very direct and very informative," said Capt. Jake Long, of Fulton, Mo., the secretary to the 416th TEC general staff.
Fulton said that his presence and responses were reassuring to him in relation to the state of the Army Reserve's future, funding and stability. In order for that stability to continue, Talley addressed the need of more non-commissioned officers, company grade officers and majors among the ranks.
"We don't need any more privates. I have privates falling out of the sky," he said with a tinge of humor. "What we need is a solid core of leaders moving our forces forward."
He reassured the crowd that his senior staff is constantly working on finding new ways for Reserve soldiers to serve, even in an environment of budget cuts. Funding, sequestration, the evolution of the ever-changing military, restructure of full-time staff: these were the bulk of the topics he addressed.
This pit-stop at the 416th TEC was one of several visits Talley made with major Reserve commands around the U.S. From engineer, to military police, to regional support and others, Talley has kept busy in order to keep informed.
"In order to understand the needs of our Soldiers, it's vital that I visit these commands in person," explained Talley. "Even with today's technology, there's nothing that can replace face-to-face interaction. I want Soldiers to know not only that I care, but that I'm informed. That I understand their missions, their struggles and their goals. These town hall meetings allow me to do that."