FORT DIX, N.J. (Army News Service) -- "Today marks a major milestone in the mission success of realigning the Army Reserve" said Maj. Gen. William Monk III, Sept. 20 during the activation ceremony for the 99th Regional Support Command at Fort Dix.

"With this ceremony we take another major step in making Army Reserve transformation a reality, and put another building block in place to transform our force from a Cold War strategic reserve to a well-trained operational force that compliments the Army across the full spectrum of capabilities."

Only moments before, Monk officially received the 99th Regional Readiness Command's colors from Maj. Gen. Alan D. Bell, deputy commander, U.S. Army Reserve Command; and deputy chief, U.S. Army Reserve, for Operations, Readiness, Training and Mobilization.

The exchange symbolically designated Monk to assume command responsibility for the new RSC - the first of four RSCs which were consolidated from 10 RRCs under Army Reserve transformation initiatives.

The late summer sun bathed Sharp Field in bright light as the 78th Army Band and the 99th's Color Guard set the grassy stage for the official passing of the colors. The 99th RSC's new headquarters here, currently under the final phases of construction, is expected to be ready for occupancy around the beginning of 2009. By spring, Monk indicated, the command should be fully operational at the site.

The 99th RSC now comprises the geography that was once assigned to the 77th, 94th and 99th RRCs, stretching along 13 states of America's Eastern Seaboard from southern Virginia to The northern tip of Maine.

Through the transition, the staffs of all three RRC staffs are continuing their efforts for the 99th RSC, working from their past RRC locations, but now more focused on the new RSC mission - base operations. Prior to the disestablishments of the RRCs, all three had significant command and control and support missions for assigned units within their areas of operation and geo-boundaries. The RSC now has diminished, minimal C2, and instead is primarily responsible for facilities management of all Army Reserve facilities within the Northeast Region. It's a new mission ... and challenge, officials said.

"These are challenging times ... but not impossible times," said Bell. "Challenges are nothing new to Soldiers, and (challenges) are especially nothing new to the 99th."

The sweeping changes in today's Army Reserve began under former Chief of the Army Reserve Lt. Gen. Ron Helmy and are being carried forward by current Chief Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz. In his opening statement to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense in February, Stultz stated that "the nation's reserve components were challenged to evolve from a strategic force in reserve to an operational force that is constantly deployed. It literally happened overnight."

Although the Army Reserve was heavily called upon during operations Desert Shield and Storm in 1990/1991, the relatively short duration of the conflict didn't really test the force deeply enough to assess its viability in a protracted conflict and multiple, rotational deployments, Stultz said. The mass mobilizations did reveal, however, that public support for the military expands a hundredfold if the community-based Army Reserve is engaged.

"The 99th has been tested over the years," Bell said at the activation ceremony. " Its strength has been proven through countless campaigns such as the Battle of the Bulge and crossing the Bridge at Remagen in World War II, only to face the sands of Saudi Arabia... Each time, the 99th has emerged victorious, brushing the dust and desert from their uniforms and driving forward ... ready to face the next objective."

(Jack Gordon serves in the Public Affairs Office of the 99th RSC/West, U. S. Army Reserve.)