As the active duty Army and National Guard continue to charge hard out of the gate in projecting a litany of post-Afghanistan missions to keep the force engaged around the globe, the Army Reserve is making the case that its soldiers can and will take an active role wherever Big Army goes.
Just as Army leadership increasingly looks toward Africa as the place where there is the most possibility for host nation training and mil-to-mil engagement in the near future, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley says that “I think you will see a bigger role for [the Reserve] in Africa and I would argue, SOUTHCOM” in coming years, “more than we already are.”
Talley said that “a lot of these shaping missions that we’re looking at in other theaters outside of CENTCOM are perfect for the Army Reserve.” So much so that he wants to embed Army Reserve engagement cells of medical, engineer, and civil affairs units in AFRICOM, and he’s thinking of assigning a 2-star medical officer to AFRICOM to “start looking at the medical needs on the continent and how could we in the Army Reserve bring in medical support” to local governments and to forces assigned to AFRICOM.The Reserve doesn’t expect to take too much of a hit in upcoming budget reductions—and Talley pointedly said he isn’t planning for sequestration—but the general told reporters at a breakfast meeting on Nov. 14 that he has already met the force reduction order the Reserve received, shaving 1,000 soldiers from the ranks to bring its end strength down to 205,000.
Talley thinks that the Reserve should be mostly immune to any further cuts, since it already runs a relatively lean operation with an annual budget of $8 billion, and given that the force is made up of combat enablers, rather than trigger-pullers. “We represent most of the combat service support and combat support to the active component” around the world he said, adding that after the drawdown in Afghanistan is complete, “our op tempo is expected to remain about the same as it is now.”
There are currently about 9,500 Reserve soldiers serving in Afghanistan, where “we’re showing pretty steady engagement until the drawdown is complete,” and a total of 25,000 activated Reservists stationed around the globe, and Talley said that he expects “the demand signal” for Reservists to stay at about that number in the near-term.