Reserves Critical to U.S. Military Capabilities, Petraeus Says

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2012 — The reserve com­po­nents are an inte­gral part of the mil­i­tary in ways that Cold War plan­ners could not have imag­ined, retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said at a Reserve Offi­cers Asso­ci­a­tion meet­ing here today.

The asso­ci­a­tion induct­ed Petraeus, now CIA direc­tor, into its Min­ute­man Hall of Fame. Petraeus thanked the group, and said he accepts the hon­or on behalf of the men and women who so brave­ly served and sac­ri­ficed under his com­mand in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Petraeus said the reserve com­po­nents are more than the strate­gic reserve envi­sioned dur­ing the Cold War and have become an essen­tial part of the U.S. mil­i­tary.

“With­out our cit­i­zen-sol­diers, our armed forces sim­ply could not ful­ly car­ry out America’s glob­al com­mit­ments to keep our nation secure,” he said.

Reservists bring war­rior and civil­ians skills to the fight, Petraeus said. “That com­bi­na­tion has been par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant in the com­plex envi­ron­ments we’ve been fac­ing in the past decade,” he added.

Iraq and Afghanistan required more than just being war­riors, he not­ed. “They need­ed diplo­mats, builders, train­ers, advi­sors, ser­vice providers, eco­nom­ic devel­op­ers and medi­a­tors,” he said. “Cit­i­zen-sol­diers have per­formed these diverse tasks in par­tic­u­lar­ly impres­sive fash­ion, and in so doing, they have demon­strat­ed the unique edge, the unique qual­i­ty that they bring to every mil­i­tary endeav­or.”

The expe­ri­ences that reservists bring from civil­ian life are par­tic­u­lar­ly help­ful in a coun­terin­sur­gency envi­ron­ment, Petraeus said, because they are used to work­ing in a com­mu­ni­ty to accom­plish things. For exam­ple, he added, their civil­ian jobs make it pos­si­ble for them to advise a nascent city coun­cil on how to set up depart­ments. Also, he said, reservists serve as fire­fight­ers in their home com­mu­ni­ties can advise the best way to set up a fire depart­ment and how to train the peo­ple.

Petraeus recalled when he was appoint­ed to head the train­ing effort for the Iraqi mil­i­tary and police in 2004. “This was a par­tic­u­lar­ly daunt­ing task — one that we described as build­ing the world’s biggest air­craft, while in flight, while it’s being designed and while it’s being shot at,” he said.

Petraeus also had to build the Multi­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Tran­si­tion Com­mand in Iraq. There was no exist­ing head­quar­ters for it, he said. “So we turned to the 98th Divi­sion (Insti­tu­tion­al Train­ing) and its more than 3,000 reservists based most­ly in the north­east­ern Unit­ed States,” he said, not­ing almost 1,000 mem­bers of the 98th, set up the head­quar­ters and men­tored Iraqi sol­diers and police that first year.

Army Cpl. Eric DeHart is anoth­er exam­ple of reserve adapt­abil­i­ty, the gen­er­al said. DeHart, an Army Reserve engi­neer from Wis­con­sin, invent­ed a device placed in cul­verts in Afghanistan that allowed water and debris to flow, but did­n’t allow ene­my fight­ers to plant impro­vised explo­sive devices.

“He even wrote a field man­u­al on how to use it,” said Petraeus, not­ing that the device is still being used today and has saved count­less lives.

Anoth­er reservist, Army Mas­ter Sgt. Juani­ta Mil­li­gan, is the moth­er of three and has deployed to Iraq twice. “She was grave­ly wound­ed dur­ing her sec­ond deploy­ment to Iraq, when an impro­vised explo­sive device blast­ed into her Humvee,” the gen­er­al said. “See­ing the bomb a split-sec­ond before it explod­ed, she jumped across the vehi­cle to pull her gun­ner out of the hatch and inside. He was OK, but she sus­tained severe injuries, includ­ing shrap­nel through­out her body, the loss of part of her right arm and her femur bro­ken in three places.”

Mil­li­gan went through numer­ous surg­eries, ther­a­py and the pain asso­ci­at­ed with regain­ing use of her hands. “Mas­ter Sergeant Mil­li­gan defines the self­less ded­i­ca­tion of our cit­i­zen-sol­diers — a moth­er who twice answered the call to mil­i­tary duty, leav­ing fam­i­ly friends and com­mu­ni­ty,” Petraeus said.

Some 385,000 reserve-com­po­nent ser­vice mem­bers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, with 30,000 reservists serv­ing today. Since 1990, reservists has been called to serve in every con­tin­gency the Unit­ed States has been involved in, from human­i­tar­i­an mis­sions and dis­as­ter relief to all-out war, Petraeus said.

“Today, reservists serve in more than 70 coun­tries, demon­strat­ing that our cit­i­zen-sol­diers are not only a strate­gic reserve, but a key com­po­nent of our oper­a­tional forces,” he added.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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