The Reserve Officer

The Reserve Officer

Article by Tom Rozman

A combat infantry battalion assigned to a separate infantry brigade garrisoned at a major Southeastern Continental United States (CONUS) installation had returned from a major deployment to a large training area to the east.  It was cleaning and repairing equipment, replacing inoperative equipment and  training in preparation for another deployment in about two months.  It was the summer cycle and the battalion had just been assigned an Army Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) infantry captain who would serve with the battalion for the next two months.

Operations for U. S. units in Viet Nam had ended about a year earlier.  The Army was contracting as it worked through the process of several iterations of reduction in force.  The reserve system in the form of its troop program Army National Guard and Army Reserve units and the IRR, a part of the Federal Army Reserve, were also affected by the reductions and were being reorganized accordingly.  That said, the Army was moving toward a concept that would assure in future emergencies that, unlike what ultimately occurred during the Viet Nam development, the U.S. Army (Regular Army), Army National Guard and Federal Army Reserve, all comprising the Army of the United States, would share the demands  of meeting national security responsibilities.  The idea was that unlike Viet Nam, but consistent with previous wars like World Wars I and II and Korea, the Regular Army, expanded with Army of the United States drafted soldiers would not go to war in future without its Army National Guard and Army Reserve partners.

One element of this larger strategy was bringing IRR officers on active duty with Regular Army units for periods of up to eight weeks, typically during the summer months.  A particular profession this timing aligned very well with was education or secondary school teachers.  As yet, waves of politically correct thought had not made it difficult for education majors to pursue pre-commission programs available to college students through the Air Force, Army, and Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), Army and Air Force National Guard Officer Candidate Schools and Marine Corps PLC Program.

The captain assigned was in fact a teacher from a mid-western state.  He had been commissioned as an Obligated Volunteer Officer for Two Years (OBV2) from a University Army ROTC program.  He had served his two years of active duty returning to civil life and teaching several years earlier.  He had not served in Viet Nam.  He had served in a CONUS  basic training battalion.

The brigade personnel officer (S-1) had assigned the captain to the battalion and the battalion adjutant with guidance from the battalion commander had detailed the captain to the battalion’s Plans, Operations and Training Office (S-3).  The S-3, a Regular Army major, had detailed the reserve captain to the assistant S-3 for Air Operations, the officer second in charge of the S-3 Office, a Regular Army captain.

No guidance had been forth coming to the S-3 Air regarding specific employment for the captain—the officer being almost an afterthought and viewed by some as an unwanted encumbrance.  After all, he had no experience with combat units and he had been an IRR officer for several years with one other active period, and that not with a combat unit.  But, the S-3 Air had a deep respect for reservists.  He understood the difficulties of managing a viable civilian livelihood and career and the challenges to developing adequate military proficiency part time.  As well, he believed that the nation would again need its reservists—history alone said this would be the case.

Additionally, the S-3 Air took the time to interview and get to know the reserve captain who struck him as a first class professional whose civilian profession and experience dovetailed very well with Army needs.  In a word, the S-3 Air approached the reserve captain as a colleague and professional and with appropriate  respect, welcoming the reservist aboard.

As well, the S-3 Air had several upcoming mission related projects that the attached captain would be a suitable project officer for and that would place him in a situation as a captain that respected his rank and seniority in the battalion.  One project involved development of a training program needed as preparation for the upcoming deployment and the execution of that training.

After getting the new captain oriented and settled into the battalion, the S-3 Air assigned him two projects and provided necessary guidance to include projected project completion dates and expected deliverables.  Applying an abbreviated version of the staff planning process, the reserve captain would be providing a briefing to the S-3 Air within three days on his plan for each project.  He was advised of the resources available to include the S-3 Air.

The reserve officer got to work and quickly demonstrated that he possessed the initiative and ability to work independently and do quality work.  He presented a briefing on his two tasks on schedule and this work required only minor modification.  Both training tasks began on time and the troops trained were through the instruction and validated within two weeks of the reserve officer’s completion of his active duty authorization and the battalion’s upcoming deployment.  This was sufficient time to conduct remedial training for those soldiers who did not validate their training.

The S-3 Air was thoroughly impressed with the professionalism and demonstrated ability of the reserve captain.  As part of the closeout administration at the end of the reservist’s active duty period, the S-3 Air was required to complete an officer efficiency report for the reserve officer’s permanent record.

The performance of the reserve officer had been such that the S-3 Air believed that he deserved a very strong evaluation.  The S-3 Air completed the evaluation and gave the reserve captain the strongest rating possible .  He conducted a face-to-face session with the reservist on his last day of duty providing him with a copy of the evaluation.  The S-3 Air also said farewell to an officer that had become a  good friend.

The reserve captain, treated as a respected colleague and fellow soldier, responded accordingly by providing thoroughly professional and value added performance that greatly benefited the battalion.  He did his duty well and was respected for it.

The experience was also important from a personal standpoint and as a step forward on the Army’s journey toward realizing its total force concept goal—an Army where the three components were able to integrate as a competent whole, capable of expanding the standing Army to a larger force with the necessary capabilities to execute any mission assigned. The experience with the reserve captain had convinced the S-3 Air that reservists were capable of performing well and should be treated as respected fellow soldiers of great value to the active force.