Europe poised to expand its Army Reserve presence by a third
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 22, 2015
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The Army Reserve is still poised to expand its presence on the Continent, even as it and the overall Army continue to draw down to meet budgetary demands, the Reserve’s top civilian official said Thursday.
To help meet the needs of the active component in Europe, the 7th Mission Support Command will grow by about a third by adding some 350 slots over the next year or two, said James Balocki, the command executive officer and director of services and installations for the Army Reserve.
Balocki spoke to 7th MSC civilians and reservists at a town hall at Daenner Kaserne on Thursday.
The command — formerly the 7th Civil Support Command — currently has nearly 1,000 soldiers assigned to 22 reserve units located throughout Germany and in Vicenza, Italy. It’s the only forward-stationed Army Reserve command in Europe.
A more robust reserve presence in Europe allows the command to better meet the needs of the combatant and service component commanders, Balocki said, by providing reservists already based in Europe and by improving the process of bringing forward reservists from the States.
The added overseas positions help “Gen. Hodges make the 30,000 look like 300,000,” he said, referring to U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges and the current USAREUR force strength.
USAREUR has dropped to fewer than 30,000 active duty soldiers, even as demands on the command have increased because of growing tensions in eastern Europe.
While 7th MSC will gain positions, overall the Army Reserve is still due to shrink, Balocki said. Now holding steady at about 198,000, reserve numbers will eventually fall to 195,000, Balocki said.
“It’s a zero-sum game,” Balocki said later in an interview. “It’s really a repositioning of assets that’s responding to the priorities of the nation and the combatant commanders as we look to provide capabilities where … the national defense strategy requires it to be present.”
Balocki said the additional Europe slots are expected to be spread out geographically. He didn’t say which specific jobs would be added. But in June, during a visit to then-7th CSC headquarters, the Army Reserve’s top officer, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, said the reserve was seeking to add engineering and military police, as well as possibly a cyber detachment and a sustainment battalion. Talley also said most of the positions would be traditional reserve slots filled by individuals who have full-time jobs outside the military.
Some of the unique capabilities the reserve can provide in Europe include logistics, engineering and medical, Balocki said. “Some of those are already resident,” he said, but there are large training exercises where “we might be able to put a bigger plug than what’s present here to provide greater training.”
The demand for reserve capabilities in the Pacific region is also on the uptick, Balocki said.
“You’re seeing the same kind of exercise scenarios play out across the Pacific and the same kind of demand signal for exactly the same kind of units you have” here, he said.
James Balocki, the command executive officer and director of services and installations for the Army Reserve, speaks to civilians and reservists with the 7th Mission Support Command at Daenner Kaserne in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. Balocki spoke about civilian reductions across the entire Army Reserve and in a later interview talked about the Army Reserve's growing mission in Europe.
Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes