RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – Army Reserve soldiers could be away from home for longer periods of training to maintain the expertise and combat readiness honed during more than a decade of war, said Maj. Gen. Luis Visot, the Army Reserve Command’s new deputy commander for operations.
Reservists will still maintain the traditional schedule of drilling one weekend a month and two weeks a year, Visot said in an interview Friday, but those two weeks of annual training could be extended by an extra six days during certain years.
“That’s the additional time we have for us to not only meet our regular, required training but, more importantly, to continue to sustain our technical and tactical capabilities,” he said. “We want to sustain an operational reserve.”
The Army Reserve has implemented a five-year training model that would progressively prepare soldiers for possible yearlong training deployment or mobilization during the fifth year. The concept has been around for several years but the Army Reserve hasn’t been able to implement it fully because of the more-pressing need to support the war effort, officials said.
Over the last 10 to 12 years, the 205,000-strong reserve force has “gained a tremendous amount of wartime experience,” Visot said, particularly in the areas of logistics, civil affairs, medical support and engineering. The challenge now is to maintain those capabilities during peacetime, he said.
The extra training days would be added in years three and four of the five-year model, during which soldiers could expect to be gone for up to three weeks of annual training, not including mandatory drill weekends. Some reserve units could also see an additional 27 days of annual training before mobilizing or deploying, said Lt. Col. Mike Stewart, spokesman for the 7th Civil Support Command, an Army Reserve command with headquarters in Kaiserslautern.
The additional training days depend on the complexity of the unit’s mission, its location and other factors, Stewart said. They are not automatic.
The five-year model is intended “to bring predictability to our soldiers, to our families and also to our employers,” Visot said. Soldiers know when to expect more training, and they know in the fifth year there’s the possibility, ‘I’m going to be gone for longer,’ ” Visot said. “It may not be for a full year, but it may be a 90-day window, or an extended 45-day window, rather than the normal year that we have been doing presently” because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That fifth year could be spent training abroad with allies, a role the Army Reserve could be asked to take on more often with the reduction of active-duty soldiers based overseas, Visot said. Two U.S. Army combat brigades are leaving Germany as part of a new Pentagon defense strategy that shifts more focus to Asia.
Reservists during that fifth-year window could deploy anywhere, whether to train with another nation to build partnerships, Visot said, or for humanitarian and disaster relief. The 7th Civil Support Command, for example, the Army Reserve’s only command stationed entirely overseas, has the civil affairs and medical capabilities to help countries in Europe in the event of a disaster, he said.
Visot arrived in Kaiserslautern on Friday, where he was making his first visit to 7th CSC soldiers since assuming his current assignment in June.
After the war in Afghanistan ends, the reserve will have more time for training and won’t have to rush soldiers off to the battlefield, he said, “but we’re not necessarily going to have the same high-level resources.”
The reserve is exploring ways to increase distance-learning opportunities to maximize valuable training time, Visot said. It’s possible reservists could meet some annual training requirements at home so “by the time they go to their battle assembly, they’re really focused on their tactical and technical skills,” he said. “They don’t have to worry about sitting in a classroom watching PowerPoint presentations.”