By Dawn Arden, Fort Leonard Wood GuidonMarch 11, 2013
During the week of Jan. 6, 30 Army Reserve Soldiers reported to Fort Leonard Wood as part of the One Army School System. Their mission is to bridge the gap created when TRADOC implemented the new changes to the Program of Instruction for 88Ms, Motor Transport Operator.
Soldiers in Advanced Individual Training for Motor Transport Operator listen to guidance from their instructor before beginning to drive during their training.
What had called for a student-to-instructor ratio of 3:1 was amended to 1:1, starting with January classes.
"The Army requires more instructors, the Reserve Component has volunteered to provide 30 instructors to help alleviate the backlog of students," said Col. Bradley Duffey, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, chief of staff Army Reserve Affairs.
"This mission gets the trained Soldiers out to the field faster," Duffey said.
Due to budgeting cutbacks, 58th Transportation Battalion had just terminated 26 of their temp-term employees.
"Our hope was that we would be able to hire some of them back, but when it finally came out there wasn't any money for any kind of civilian contractors or temp-term and that's why the Reserve guys were activated," said Sgt. Maj. Timothy Olds, Motor Transport Operator Course chief instructor.
Olds pointed out that these Soldiers are bringing something more than just years of experience and valued instruction with them; they share something unique with a large percentage of the student population.
"Probably about 70 percent of what our school house teaches is Guard and Reserve students. The questions that the Guard and Reserve guys have, we wouldn't have the perfect answer to," Olds said.
"For us, it's a big thing. They're sharing their knowledge of the Reserve and the Guard with my guys and now my guys can answer some of those questions that might have been something where we'd say 'that's something you'll have to ask when you get to your unit because I haven't been in a Guard unit or a Reserve unit," Olds said.
As much as this mission is benefiting Fort Leonard Wood, the reserve instructors said there is much to be gained on their end also.
"I think the reason we came here is that we love what we do; we teach other Soldiers about our area of expertise. I know that's why I stay in, and I bet most of them do too," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Ulshafer, mobilized instructor, Mich.
"We all have retirements coming up the road and it definitely helps for retirement for us being here -- and some of us are unemployed, so it was an excellent way to make extra money," Ulshafer said.
While they may be here to instruct AIT students, the Reservists are also taking advantage of this opportunity to further their own training. Lack of equipment at their units makes coming here rare opportunity for some.
"Looking at retirement and my future I chose to come on this mission for extra points and to help my Family. I also thought it would be a great experience to have more hands on with the LHS," Sgt. 1st Class Deborah Schweppe, mobilized instructor, Miss.
"I've enjoyed working with the instructors on the pad. Learning from them, (their) different insights. Having more of those hands on training," Schweppe said.
Although both sides had good intentions, getting here wasn't the easiest. Reservists don't have the luxury of getting everything done in one location like the active duty. Their orders may be done in one place while their travel card is handled across state lines. Getting any of this done during the last two weeks in December is especially difficult.
"Because everything happened so late a lot of the reserves found out in the beginning of December or even the middle of December and the report date was 5 January," Olds said. "So these guys had over the holiday period."
"They had to jump through a lot of hoops to get here in a very short amount of time -- under 30 days," Olds said.
The Reserve Soldiers all agreed that all though things are pretty much smoothed out now, it was a little rough in the beginning.
"Everything was pretty smooth, we had a few issues with people not knowing the total mission or the number of days they were going to be here and they didn't understand how the pay situation was working out," Schweppe said. "Some of that has gotten fixed now and it's getting better all the time. The people that have stayed are the dedicated people."
Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Folmar, mobilized instructor, Ala., said, "Some of the issues as far as some of the per diem or logistics and stuff like that are still not clear."
Olds said that Fort Leonard Wood did a tremendous job in supporting this mission with barracks and the required Cadre Training Course.
"Lt. Col. Darren Middleton and his crew did a great job. The CTC class dates are scheduled all through the year, and he's done two off cycle class dates to accommodate the huge rush that we originally had come in so that our people could get out there," Olds said.
For some of the instructors this is their first visit to Fort Leonard Wood, while others have been here before.
"This is my first time here, it's a little slow but it gives you time to focus on your mission," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Paige, mobilized instructor, Pen.
"This is my third time here, I came out here in 1983 for basic training, and it's paved now where it used to be dirt roads. I came back in 2003, on a mission somewhat close to this mission -- I'm back now and I might make this one my final visit," Folmer said. "I started here and I might just end it here."
The 88M mission is set to end 31 May.