WASHINGTON, March 9, 2009 - As the Army Reserve prepares to deploy more troops to Afghanistan, its top officer said he anticipates no decrease, at least in the near term, in the need for Army reservists in Iraq.
Army Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz said last week at a Pentagon town hall meeting that he doesn't expect the Army Reserve to mirror the force draw downs combat brigades are experiencing in Iraq -- at least not immediately.
"I don't see any reduction" in the almost 9,000 Army reservists in Iraq, Stultz told about 200 of his troops based in the Washington area.
In fact, he said, the demand in Iraq for reservists' skills actually could increase in the near term.
With its heavy complement of combat support and combat service support capabilities, the Army Reserve brings engineering, transportation, civil affairs, military police and other skills Stultz said will remain in demand after combat forces draw down.
"The enablers that we have don't come down when the [brigade combat teams] come down," he said. "We still have to have the infrastructure there when the BCTs come down."
Meanwhile, as more combat troops deploy to Afghanistan, Stultz said, he expects the need for Army reservists to increase there, too. Almost 1,400 Army reservists are currently in Afghanistan.
"As we have an increase, what are they asking for'" Stultz said. "More enablers. They need more engineers right now. They need more transportation. They need more military police."
He also cited a "huge demand" for civil affairs practitioners, the vast majority of them assigned to the Army Reserve.
"If we met the bill on the civil affairs requirement right now in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Horn of Africa, in Kosovo, in Europe and in Africa, and also for the requirements in training units going through the National Training Center right now," he said, his voice trailing off before he finished the sentence.
"Well, let's just say we can't do that," he said. "There is a huge demand."
Wherever he travels, Stultz said, he receives "incredible" feedback about the value Army reservists bring to the operations they support. Commanders benefit doubly from reservists, who contribute not just military skills, but also skills gained through their civilian professions, he said.
"Everyone asks, 'How do we get more of your forces'' and 'How do we get more Army Reserve capability''" he said. "Because that's what they really need for theater engagements and security cooperation and that kind of thing. And that's what we've got in the Army Reserve."
Once a strategic reserve to be called on as a last resort, the Army Reserve has become an operational reserve that deploys regularly in support of military operations, Stultz said.
"We are going to be committed on a regular basis, rotating forward, then rotating back to reconstitute," he said.
Particularly in the face of looming defense budget cuts, the Army Reserve represents a great return on investment, Stultz told the group. "If you measure what it costs to me in terms of the budget, we are just an itty-bitty piece of the defense budget," he said. "And if you say, 'What are you contributing'' I can show you: [25,000] or 30,000 Soldiers on a regular basis."
Of those, more than 13,000 are currently deployed in about a dozen countries around the world.
The big job now, Stultz said, is to transform the Army Reserve headquarters structure and other processes to support the operational force.
"We have to adapt," he said. "We have to change the institution to support the force that is in the fight."