WASHINGTON — Army Reserve commander Lt. Gen Jack Stultz is warning his troops not to expect a deployment slowdown soon, even with Pentagon promises of more relief for soldiers in coming years.
“I want to be more realistic with them. I don’t predict a drop in our op-tempo,” Stultz said in an interview with Stripes this week. “We are the enablers. The last thing to pull out of a theater is your support structure ... and the first thing to put into a theater is the enablers.
“So, with the drawdown in Iraq, the enablers will be some of the last to come out, and with the buildup in Afghanistan the enablers will be the first ones in. I don’t want them to hear things on the news and get their hopes up.”
Currently about 30,000 Army reservists are mobilized for active-duty missions overseas and in the U.S.
Stultz said right now the average reservist spends about three years home for each year deployed: “Not quite where we need to be, but a lot better than we were.”
The goal is still a one-to-four schedule, he said, but getting there could take five years.
In the last eight years, part-time reservists have taken on a larger piece of the full-time fight than during any other period in recent decades. More than 180,000 reservists have been mobilized, and the force has grown more than 22,000 soldiers in the last three years.
Stultz said he’s pleased with improvements made to keep up with that new operational tempo. Today most units get almost a year warning before deployments — in contrast to just a few months or weeks early in the Iraq war — and finish their pre-deployment training in one month instead of three.
Equipment, however, is a constant concern.
“We’re still in need back home, in the equipment for training for the force and the equipment we’ll need for strategic flexibility,” he said.
“It’s one thing to send an engineering unit to Iraq and have them fall in on the best stuff. But when you look back home at their motorpool, they have old equipment that’s not in the fight.”
Congress has set aside about $7 billion for Guard and Reserve equipment repairs, upgrades and replacement in fiscal 2010, but earlier this month Pentagon officials acknowledged that much of that money will be limited to vehicles and weapons positioned in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Stultz said he’s working with Army leaders on the issue, but admitted that troops downrange will continue to be the top priority to receive the newest and best equipment.
Stulz said he’s also focusing on additional resources for families of reserve soldiers “back at home,” including plans for new information offices catering to spouses and children of reservists at Army bases.
A model test facility has already been opened in New York, and Stulz said he’s having conversations with veterans affairs officials to open an additional center located alongside one of their offices.