By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2006 – The National Guard and Reserve play a vital role in supporting the U.S. European Command mission, filling critical roles in the command's headquarters and in operations around the world, EUCOM's commander said here today. "Reserve component forces are ever-present across EUCOM's 92-country area of responsibilities," Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones said at a hearing of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserve. "The many skill sets and capabilities resident in the Guard and Reserves are of significant importance to the success of our theater security cooperation programs."
Every day, an average of 4,500 National Guard and Reserve troops serve in EUCOM's region, performing missions such as command and control, airlift, airborne tankers, engineering, force protection, special operations and intelligence, Jones said. Additionally, members of the Reserve components make up more than 10 percent of the uniformed personnel of the EUCOM headquarters, he said.
EUCOM is a major hub for troops and equipment deploying forward to U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility, Jones said. Reserve and Guard members are managing logistics requirements, flying airlift missions and operating on airfields to keep the flow of personnel and materials moving forward, he said.
Reserve component members bring tremendous analytical skills to theater intelligence assets, Jones said. More than 560 Reserve and Guard members support EUCOM's joint intelligence operations center, intelligence mission operations center and the joint analysis center. Reserve component members at the joint analysis center produce more than 30 percent of the intelligence products in support of operations throughout the command, he noted.
The National Guard and Reserve also contribute greatly to NATO's operations, said Jones, who also serves as NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe. Reserve component personnel provide staff support to the NATO Response Force, and reservists serve as an integral core of the U.S. delegation to the NATO Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium, he said.
On the operational side, Air National Guard tankers provide the majority of airborne tanker support for NATO's aircraft, and the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command provide lift support to U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Jones said. Additionally, the Maritime Domain Awareness/White Shipping Tracking Cell is manned entirely by reservists.
"National Guard and Reserve personnel provide significant U.S. leadership to NATO, and in so doing, strengthen the transatlantic relationship immeasurably," he said.
The Reserve components are a major player in peacekeeping operations in the Balkans and in Africa, Jones said. Bosnia and Kosovo operations are virtually exclusively executed by the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, and Guard and Reserve members also serve as mentors to the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, he said.
One program that provides tremendous returns on EUCOM's efforts to build bilateral relationships is the state partnership program, Jones said. This program brings together National Guard leaders from a particular state to develop a relationship with specific countries, enhancing not only military contacts but also civilian-to-military contacts, he said. Currently, 20 states are partnered with European nations and five are partnered with nations in Africa.
As the U.S. military in Europe and Africa transforms from a static, forward-deployed force to a more dynamic expeditionary force, numerous opportunities will arise to increase the use of the Reserve and National Guard in innovative and resourceful ways during their annual training periods, Jones said. He said he sees two major initiatives that will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Reserve components in their support of EUCOM's missions.
The first initiative is creating a single integrated pay and personnel system for the active and Reserve components, Jones said. "Having separate pay and personnel system creates unnecessary complexities, which significantly slow both the mobilization process and our ability to reach out to the Reserve component volunteers across all service lines on a day-to-day basis," he said.
The second initiative is to reduce the number of Reserve component duty statuses to improve operations and to achieve equality in pay and benefits with the active component personnel serving in EUCOM, Jones said. "I would suggest that the labyrinth of duty statuses for Reservists and Guardsmen serve as a major impediment to effectively and efficiently access operational and support forces," he said.
Reserve components are active in every aspect of EUCOM operations, Jones said. They are fully integrated in the daily battle rhythm, are assigned to critical positions and are essential in achieving EUCOM's theater goals, he said.
"The wide scope and unpredictable nature of this new security landscape compels us to develop new strategies to better harmonize the full spectrum of national influence," he said. "This harmonization should include maximizing the full potential of our Reserve components as a ready operational volunteer force, not just a strategic asset for mobilization."