Friday, January 07, 2005

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water

Sometime after 9/11, I had a suspicion the rules had changed. No, not the rules hijackers followed, although they had indeed changed, but the rules in terms of how reservists would be used and what reservists could expect in terms of obligations.

When I enlisted in the Coast Guard Reserve nearly 25 years ago, I expected I might get recalled for a natural disaster or to help out with some planned event. I'd be on active duty for a couple of weeks and then return home. Sure, we had "mobilization orders" in our pockets, but frankly, if we'd ever had to come to use them it would have meant nuclear war and the annihilation of the human race.

Fast forward to today:
Stretched thin by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army is considering a National Guard and Reserve policy shift that could result in part-timers being called to active duty multiple times for up to two years each time, a senior Army official said Thursday.

The official, who discussed the matter with a small group of reporters on condition of anonymity because the matter has not been fully settled inside the Pentagon, said the Army probably will ask Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in the next several months to change the policy.
How now on that, brown cow?

Okay, so for the last couple of years, I've been telling fellow reservists the rules have changed; where in the past we never would'a been recalled for a long period of time, now we can expect to be on active duty for two years out of every ten. And it seems that I'm not just spreading my own doom and gloom.
Under current policy set by Rumsfeld, a Guard or Reserve member is not to serve on active duty for more than 24 total months. Thus, for example, if a Guard or Reserve member was mobilized for six months after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and later for nine months in Afghanistan, then that person is off limits for duty in Iraq because a yearlong tour there would exceed the 24-month limit. A standard tour in Iraq, for both active-duty and reserves, is 12 months.

If the limit were set at 24 consecutive months, with some break between tours, then in theory a Guard or Reserve member could be mobilized for multiple 12- or 24-month tours in Iraq or elsewhere.

That is the kind of flexibility the Army has decided it needs in order to sustain the forces needed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the official said. He stressed that the Army would make only sparing use of the authority to call up soldiers for longer tours because it would not want to alienate soldiers.
While this article cites the Army, I could see the Coast Guard following suite. Even as it stands now, the Coast Guard would not be able to meet it's obligations without the recalled reservists and those reservists who, after being recalled for two years, accepted voluntary orders to extended active duty.

Times have certainly changed.

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