By Sgt. 1st Class Mark BellDecember 20, 2010
FORT JACKSON, S.C. - For some, being the eyes and ears of any commander might be a difficult task.
Although supporting more than 49,000 Soldiers, their families and a large civilian workforce may seem nearly impossible, the 81st RSC's inspector general section handles the task with confidence.
Adding to the equation of difficulty is that the more than 100 units and their commanders and dozens of Army Reserve facilities are spread out over more than 500,000 square miles in nine southeastern states and Puerto Rico.
Maj. Gen. Bill Gerety, the 81st RSC's commanding general, relies on his small inspector general staff to assist him and his senior military and civilian leadership to support the operational and functional commands to ensure they are mission capable.
Col. Kate Leahy, the Army Reserve Inspector General, said commanders are responsible for everything their command does or fails to do.
"Proper use of the chain of command is vital to the overall effectiveness of organization," she said. "Effective communication between leaders and subordinate Soldiers within the chain of command is crucial to the proper functioning of all units."
When this communication link breaks down, or perceives to break down, Ronald Johnson, the 81st RSC acting IG, said people could see themselves as insignificant members of a team.
"When Soldiers or Army civilian employees are not being cared for, it has a negative impact on their morale, job performance and families," said Johnson.
He said the IG staff has a major impact on ensuring the Army's most valuable resource, its military and civilian workforce, is mission capable and operating with distractions. This enhances the command's discipline, improves unit readiness and reinforces and bolsters the unit's chain of command.
Inspections, assistance, investigations, teaching and training are the four functions of the IG's mission to help enhance command's discipline, readiness and war-fighting capability, Leahy said.
At the Army Reserve's four regional support commands, Master Sgt. Kenneth Greene, the command IG non-commissioned officer, said the most common categories of cases involve bonuses, pay, promotion, line of duty investigations and incapacitation pay.
During 2010, the command IG staff here handled more than 200 cases, said Johnson.
"With the array of knowledge the members of the IG team possess we're able to resolve all types of cases," Greene said.
Each Army Reserve IG team's number one priority is to ensure each case is thoroughly analyzed and resolved fairly, and that the submitter of the case receives a complete and detailed response from the IG who worked on his or her case, Leahy said.
"Sometimes complainants may not like the 'final' resolution if it's not to their benefit, but at the end of the day our goal is for every Soldier to feel their issue was fairly resolved in accordance with regulatory guidance and policy," Greene said.
The IG staff can assist the Army Reserve team in many situations, but there exist issues with which the team cannot assist, to include uniform code of military justice punishments, officer and non-commissioned officer evaluation report appeals and various issues of command nature.
"Soldiers must first pursue these redress options, and then if the Soldier is still dissatisfied with the outcome he or she can ask the IG for assistance in determining if he or she was afforded due process," Greene said.
Each member of the "Wildcat" IG staff said the rewards come weekly from his or her efforts as an advocate for both the commander and Soldier or civilian.
Jeffery Johnson, an assistant IG, recently worked on an issue with a Soldier's reenlistment bonus - or so he thought.
"My most rewarding case initially started out with helping a Soldier to get an enlistment bonus, and in the process, I identified a systemic issue that affected more than just this Soldier," he said.
Due to a technical issue involving an equipment fielding change, he said the Soldier was unable to receive the bonus. The initial fix was to submit policy exceptions that could take up to six months before the bonus was paid.
"Working with Army Reserve personnel teams, we were able to create a blanket exception to the policy memorandum to waive the requirement for payment of bonuses," he said.
One of the newest initiatives for the inspector general team at Fort Jackson is supporting Soldiers returning home from combat zones at the monthly Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program workshops.
Greene said it is important to be where the Soldiers are at, and each month the 81st RSC sponsors hundreds of Soldiers and their families at the workshops in Orlando, Fla.
In many cases, Soldiers are cross-leveled into units from a different part of the country for a deployment.
"Because these Soldiers are in a transitional state, contact with an IG during an YRRP event provides them a chance to obtain assistance sooner rather than later," Greene said.
From reenlistment bonuses to command issues, the IG staff rewards come in something as small as a "thank you."
Louis Ramirez, an assistant IG, said Soldiers are very appreciative of the assistance provided.
"Sometimes, because of the complexity of an issue, Soldiers are unable to resolve their issue," said Ramirez. "At the end of the day, our mission is about the Army Reserve family, and taking care of our own is why we come to work each day."