By Donna Miles
Nov. 14, 2006 – Changes being made in the way the force is structured, trains and deploys ultimately will mean fewer deployments and more predictability for individual troops, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told National Guardsmen today during a town hall meeting here. Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace told about 500 National Guard troops wrapping up a year-long deployment with Kosovo Force 7 the most important thing the military can offer them is a basic idea of when and how frequently they'll be called up for duty.
Questions from the group focused on the frequency and length of National Guard deployments, as well as train-up time between mobilization and deployment. This pre-deployment training typically brings Guardsmen's full active-duty time to 18 to 24 months.
Pace said the benchmark he'd like to see on the active force is a one-year deployment, followed by two years at home station before deploying again. For Guardsmen and reservists, the ideal would be five years at home between one-year deployments, he said.
Efforts under way are helping make this goal achievable, Pace said. The Army is building its active brigade combat teams from 33 to 42, and now has 36, he noted. At the same time, the National Guard is reducing from 34 brigades that weren't totally manned or equipped to 28 brigades that will be, he said.
These initiatives will provide 18 to 19 Army brigades, as well as one or two Marine regimental combat brigades, ready to deploy at any given time. Pace said this would ensure "a sustainable tempo" for troops that matches his deployment benchmarks.
The problem for now, he said, is that current operations require 25 brigade-size units at a time. That demand will require more frequent deployments until the force restructure is completed, he said.
Another problem is that many Guardsmen and reservists needed for these rotations already volunteered for deployments in the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Deploying volunteers as individuals, rather than calling entire units to duty involuntarily, "made really good sense -- until Iraq came along," he said. "And then we needed units in Iraq."
Many troops in those units already had served voluntary deployments in Afghanistan, so they weren't required to deploy again. That left holes in their units that had to be filled by pulling troops from other units, he said, solving the short-term problem but exacerbating the long-term one.
"We're up now, after doing this for four or five years, to having some units having to pull from seven, eight or nine different units to kludge together the unit you need," Pace said. "We need to stop that. And we need to stop it on a predictable basis."
Pace said the best way to do that is to "reset the clock and do it properly."
Every Guardsman and reservist would be told "where you are in your cycle - when you are going to be eligible to go for one year and when you're not going to be eligible for the next five years," he said.
The cycle would continue, regardless of whether a deployment-eligible troop actually deployed. "And we'll just keep the cycle going so that trainers, recruiters, everybody in the unit understands when you are eligible to go and when you're not," he said.
This predicable timeline will help Guardsmen and reservists tailor their time between deployments to hone skills they will need for their next deployment, the chairman said.
In doing so, he said, they can reduce the training they need after they're mobilized for that deployment and speed up the timetable, he said.
"Nirvana for me would be that you have four to six weeks of active duty at home before you went, because you would have already been trained up well enough and all you'd have to is get out and do your final touches before you fought," he said.
This would be a win-win situation, the chairman said. "If we need you quickly for something, you'll be available more quickly," he said. And troops will have the advance notice they deserve to plan, prepare and plan for a deployment.
Pace emphasized that while this formula would work well for routine missions that can be planned ahead, it won't necessarily work in cases "where something strange happens in the world and we need more troops."
When that happens, "we just fight the nation's battles," he said. "But we can give you a predictability of when your unit would be subject to mobilization and activation. And then, if the nation needs more than 20 brigades at a time, we would have to dip into the rest of the pool."
Article sponsored by Police Officer Gifts. The one-stop shopping location for police officers, law enforcement official and other criminal justice practitioners.