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Home : Media : News : News Display

US Reserve Forces model, example to world, vice chairman of Joint Chiefs says

By Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill
ARLINGTON, Va. — The performance of the nation's seven reserve components since the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks has been exceptional, Navy Adm. James Winnefeld said here last week. 

"Our reserve forces are more indispensable as ways and means within our national defense framework than I have ever seen," Winnefeld said at the 2013 Reserve Forces Policy Board dinner. 

The seven reserve components: The Army National Guard, the Air National Guard, the Army Reserve, the Navy Reserve, the Marine Forces Reserve, the Air Force Reserve and the Coast Guard Reserve. 

"More than 850,000 reserve component men and women have deployed around the world in support of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other places such as Kosovo, Sinai and the Horn of Africa," Winnefeld said. "Their sacrifices and those of their families are memorialized by the over 900 reserve component members we've lost and the thousands more wounded since 2001." 

The National Guard and Reserves also make a critical contribution to domestic operations, he said. 

"Our reserve forces have … been on the front lines right here at home," Winnefeld said, "securing our Southwest border, playing a vital role in combating drug trafficking and responding to natural disasters, including so many who responded to Hurricane Sandy … and many others who've been recently fighting wildfires." 

Winnefeld cited recent successes, such as the innovative use of capabilities during recent defense support to civil authorities fighting wildfires. The California National Guard, for example, gave incident commanders a greatly improved picture of their fire battlefield with imagery from remotely piloted aircraft. 

"Immediately following 9/11 we really had no idea how much our National Guard and Reserves would contribute to our current fight or what a high level of performance they would achieve," he said. "Looking back over the last 12 years, their performance has been exceptional." 

Reserve component performance has resulted in institutional change. 

"We've made a lot of progress," Winnefeld said, "so much so that the chief of the National Guard Bureau has been elevated to membership on the Joint Chiefs of Staff." 

Winnefeld also cited a "breakthrough" with the use of dual-status commanders who can command both federal and state forces to oversee domestic responses to natural or manmade disasters or special events, calling it, "A practice that is now the usual and customary way we achieve unity of effort between federal and state forces in domestic operations." 

And the vice chairman said that he sees the reserve components acting more jointly. 

"We've seen greater willingness to include the service reserves in natural disasters, which speaks volumes for how these wonderful reserve folks are acting cooperatively with each other - and also thanks in large measure to the Council of Governors." 

Reserve component members live and work throughout the United States, widely dispersed across the country, unlike their active duty counterparts, who tend to live in clusters, on and around federal military installations. For many Americans who know a service member, that troop is likely to be a Guard member or reservist. 

"Public support is critical to our national defense," Winnefeld said. "We have to engage with the American people if we hope to maintain their continued support in a difficult time. Connecting with them is one of the most valuable contributions our reserve forces can make. With more than 3,000 [National Guard] armories and Reserve centers across the country, our citizen-soldiers, -sailors, -airmen and -Marines are the face of our military in every community in this nation every single day." 

Winnefeld charged senior reserve leaders with giving service members the opportunity to serve in any job for which they are qualified, regardless of gender; ensuring they are appropriately equipped; supporting their families and employers; caring for Wounded Warriors and their caregivers; and ridding from the ranks toxic behaviors such as sexual harassment and assault. 

"These soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have earned our trust, and we must ensure we never lose theirs," he said. "Culture is the collective behavior of the senior leadership. … The culture of our reserve forces is the promise of service before self. 

"Tonight, there are more than 28,000 reserve component service members currently deployed around the world and thousands more serving here at home, supporting state and federal missions." 

This tempo illustrates the agility of the National Guard and the Reserves, he said - and the agility of service members, their families and their employers. 

"In this era of the all-volunteer force, you are a constant reminder that it's American citizens who defend this nation," he said. "I celebrate your performance as a Total Force." 

The Minuteman who holds a plow in one hand and a rifle in the other is a symbol of the citizen-soldier or -airman ready at a moment's notice to set aside civilian life and take up arms. 

Retired Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley, former chief of the National Guard Bureau and the first CNGB to sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented a Minuteman statue to Winnefeld in recognition of his support to the Guard. 

"I am very, very proud … of the Minuteman," he said. "I keep [the statue] on a table right beside my desk in my office at the Pentagon." 

The RFPB is a federal advisory committee established by statute within the Office of the Secretary of Defense that independently advises the secretary on strategies, policies and practices to improve and enhance the capabilities, efficiency and effectiveness of the reserve components.