Command Sgt. Major Michele S. Jones

Command Sgt. Major Michele S. Jones (Teri Weaver / S&S)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The job for U.S. Army Reserve soldiers has “lengthened and intensified” in recent years, transforming the image of the weekend warrior into a fully trained combat soldier, according to the Reserve’s top enlisted member.

“The intensity of the mission has increased since Desert Storm,” said Command Sgt. Major Michele S. Jones during a visit to South Korea last week. “We’re mobilizing much faster than we did. During the Gulf War, mobilization and deployment was much shorter in comparison to 365 days, boots on the ground.”

Jones said the Army has more than 30,000 Reserve soldiers deployed in and around Iraq. She was last in Iraq in November 2003, and she plans to return before Christmas. “I’m way overdue,” she said.

She expects to hear concerns from the reservists she meets: about lengthy assignments, about hanging onto their jobs back home, about the chance they might go home and face mobilization again.

“Certain types of units have been mobilized over and over again,” she said. “Those are very real concerns.”

Jones was in South Korea last week to visit with the 250 Reserve soldiers stationed there and to tour the country with Sgt. Major Kenneth O. Preston, the Army’s top enlisted soldier.

Jones has been with the military for 22 years, the last two in her current position.

“And yes, it is a full-time position,” she said, laughing.

Before joining, “the only thing that I knew about the Reserve component was one weekend a month and two weeks during the year,” she said. “They were not to standard — that was the assumption back then, in 1982.”

That has changed, she said. Reserve soldiers have more benefits, more training and more responsibility. She said she’s continuing to work to improve pay scales and ranks, to bring them more in line with those of active-duty soldiers.

Jones plans to spend time next year lobbying Congress for an earlier retirement age for reservists. Now, Reserve soldiers must wait until they are 60 to draw retirement stipends; she’s fighting to make it 55.

“Army Reserve soldiers are in 120 countries as we speak,” she said. “Every soldier brings certain skill sets to the table and we are one Army. We cannot fight America’s wars, we cannot win America’s wars, if we do not work together. A bullet knows no component. We come when we’re called each and every time.”

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