posted on July 01, 2011 00:10
July 2011 - Navy
By Jon C. Altmann Senior Chief Intelligence Specialist, USN (Ret)
In the mid-1980s, the Navy Reserve was
almost an empire unto itself alongside
an active duty Navy. The 1990s saw
equipment upgrades and commitments
to make sure the ResFor was a “plug and
play” interlocking block. Lessons learned
from Desert Storm were applied – force integration
was no longer just a blueprint.
Today, we are a “plug and play” reserve
force. This is of great benefit to the rest of
the Navy. In some ways, there are still two
Navies. That’s OK; with consideration by
both Active and Reserve members of those
discerning characteristics, we will continue
to build harmony.
The “active Navy” benefits from a variety
of ResFor civilian skill sets brought to work. I
sent out a Reserve IS1 to an exercise on the
water. His civilian job was as a high-end database
engineer with two masters’ degrees. The
shipboard computer program/server had a
major issue during the exercise. The IS1
Rogered-up he thought he could fix it. The
alternative was for the ship to return to shore and the
exercise to degrade. In about four hours, the exercise
was back up. In the following day the IS1 wrote a new
program, saving the Navy thousands in what would have
been contractor repairs. The ResFor Sailor got a Navy
Achievement Medal – I give you, the Navy got a lot more.
The ResFor member leads two lives. The service
record travels between mobilization and back to a
reserve unit. The selection board/advancement exam
cycles are impacted if the service member is not cared
for – but that care also means the service member takes
responsibility. The message to the active Navy – don’t
treat the ResFor member like a borrowed library book
you will return – treat it like a treasured
possession that will stay aboard.
Several years ago, I was deployed on an
exercise working with Marine Corps counterintel
folks in the field. After two days, the
Gunny asked me where my duty station was.
I told him it was San Diego, but that I lived
in Phoenix – that I was a Reservist. He was
shocked because I knew my stuff and I
exceeded all expectations he had of
“reserves.” I could get no better eval or
The Navy has enjoyed a huge benefit
from the military/civilian skill set the
Reservist brings to the table. However, the
ResFor Sailor matures only as good as the
active Navy chooses to mentor that success.
Whether Intel, Seabee, cargo handlers or air
squadron, Reservists do a lot in a weekend.
The “weekend” label stopped in 2001. There
is not a tab on our uniforms that says
“Active” or “Reserve.”
When the ResFor Sailor returns from
Southwest Asia to home, who looks after that Sailor for
signs of PTSD or depression? Active Navy can see their
members 24/7. The ResFor Sailor may return home to
find no job. The active Sailor’s payroll keeps coming. It
has been my experience, despite all the Federal protections.
Reservists still face immense employer discrimination,
especially considering most civilian managers have no
record of service and, quite possibly now, neither did
their parents. Support the Troops is a bumper sticker,
not a consistent dedication to Reservists.
Far more Navy Reserve Chiefs have four-year college
degrees or higher than their active counterparts.
Blending that education into the active Navy when the
opportunity is there is a great opportunity.
For the Active force, the message is to take care of the
service record of that Sailor you are borrowing, whether
it is for three weeks or for a year. For the ResFor member,
be humble, learn, share and make sure to ask that your
service record reflect what you did so you are documented.
The “Lego block” interlocking Sailor blocks work well
when we know what we are building.
The basics are the same: Sailors taking care of Sailors.