By Capt. Olivia Cobiskey, 205th Infantry Brigade Public AffairsOctober 31, 2012
Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind. -- As a college student, it was the benefits that first attracted Justin Kenneth Mirkovich to the military.
But it was a mentor, Capt. Derrick Simpson, who encouraged him to not only stay, but to make it a career.
"Everything kind of fell into place after I came to the 3-411th Logistic Support Battalion," said Mirkovich, who became a second lieutenant in a commissioning ceremony Oct. 11, at the Sgt. Charles H. Seston U.S. Army Reserve Center at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind. "I was young. After my deployment, I thought I would get out and go into the Individual Ready Reserves, but Capt. Simpson encouraged me to apply for the military technician position."
Mirkovich, of West Chester, Ohio, has been a military technician with the 3-411th Logistical Support Battalion since 2010. After getting the unit administrator job, Mirkovich said Simpson encouraged him to start his master's degree and apply for a direct commission in the U.S. Army Reserves.
"I'm reaping the benefits of seeds that were sown by someone else," said Lt. Col. James E. Elkins, commander of the 3-411th Logistical Support Battalion, who administered the oath. "He is supporting the unit and showing the way for a couple of other high-speed individuals."
Elkins expects to commission two more officers from the enlisted ranks of the LSB to help address the shortage in the Army Reserves of junior and mid-grade officers, a serious impediment to meeting operational force requirements.
Currently the direct commission process is long and involves a number of steps, including going over the initial check list with a career councilor, undergoing a physical, submitting paperwork to Army Reserve Careers Division, participating in a board, and finally, setting up training for the individual. It took Mirkovich nearly a year to complete the process.
"It's very competitive," Mirkovich said. "If it's something you are serious about starting, plan now, make sure all your NCOERs are in order, keep yourself in shape, and meet with a career councilor."
"It's like a chess game; you have to really plan out your next move," Mirkovich said.
Mirkovich deployed to Balad, Iraq in 2006 with the 209th Quartermaster Company, from Lafayette, Ind., and worked in mortuary affairs. Next on his list of goals, finish his master's in Organizational Leadership from Columbia Southern in December before attending the Quartermaster School at Fort Lee, Va., and starting the next phase of his Army career, he said.
"It's a long process, but it can pay off -- so stay the course," Mirkovich said of the direct commission process. "In retrospect, it's given me a career, it's open doors, a lot of doors for me. My experience it will help when I want to move forward in my career and look for a job at DFAS or the VA."
The Army Reserve is an essential component, providing skill rich, ready Soldiers in support of the Active Army, said Maj. Patrick McNamara, officer in charge of reenlistment, incentives, and policy section at the Army Reserve Careers Division, in Morrow, Ga.
"We really need to focus efforts on those mid-grade NCOs and mid-grade officers, that's where the shortage is which results in a capability gap affecting our operational readiness," said McNamara, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy class of 1997. "As the active component draws down, the Army Reserve is going to be called upon to help meet operational needs and requirements for combatant commanders in various theaters, so we need to focus our efforts on filling these mid-grade positions.
"Part of that effort along with direct commissioning is active component to Reserve component transfers as well as IRR to TPU Transfers."
While the Reserves may only be 20 percent of the total force, it is nearly 75 percent of the civil affairs and military information support operations; 57 percent of combat support and in echelons above brigade it is nearly 40 percent of military police and engineers according to a 2009 strategy research project, "An Institution in Crisis: The Army Reserve Officers Corps," by Lt. Col. Ernest Erlandson.
Currently, the Army Reserve has a significant shortage of captains and majors, McNamara said. Nearly 50 percent of the billets for majors and a quarter of the ones for captain are empty.
To meet these shortages the U.S. Army Reserve commissioned 660 second lieutenants in 2011 and 224 in 2012 using direct commission selection. The Reserves can expect to commission a minimum of 85 officers in 2013, McNamara said.
"Direct commission is a combat multiplier for us," McNamara said. "Most people in the Army Reserve have civilian skills that their active duty counterparts don't.
"So, if we have, for example, an sergeant with a bachelors degree and a general technical score of 110 and civilian skills that provide value to the Army Reserves' operational readiness, then it makes sense for us to promote him/her."
Master Sgt. Pamela Johnson, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the battalion's personnel office, said even as a young specialist, she felt Mirkovich carried himself like an officer.
"He always had a goal," said Johnson, who was the first to salute the new lieutenant and receive the coveted 'Gold Coin,' given to the first person to salute the new lieutenant "He was an awesome NCO. I know he will be a great officer."
The 3-411th Logistic Support Battalion, 205th Infantry Brigade, is a multi-component team of active duty, Reserve and National Guard soldiers dedicated to training soldiers in support of Operation New Dawn, Operation Enduring Freedom, Horn of Africa, Multinational Force and Observers, and Kosovo Forces rotations. The 205th Infantry Brigade executes readiness oversight, post-mobilization training and validation operations to provide trained and ready forces to regional combatant commanders for the full spectrum of operations in multiple theaters of operation.