By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
Nov. 17, 2006 – The National Guard and reserves are still operating under the same rules for mobilization length, and no troops have been mobilized for longer than the allowed 24 cumulative months, the top Defense Department official for reserve affairs said here today. The current law actually allows President Bush to mobilize up to a million guardsmen and reservists for 24 consecutive months, but Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made the decision to make the rule 24 cumulative months, to relieve stress on the force, Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said in an interview.
Hall explained that the 24-consecutive-months rule, in the strictest sense, could actually see a guardsman mobilized up until one day short of the two-year mark, and then remobilized after a one-day break. Using the cumulative rule allows the reservist or guardsman to maintain balance among military service, family and employer, Hall said.
"We need to maintain that balance so that our employers will continue to support us, (and) our families will continue to support us," he said. "As you would well understand, if you don't get that support as a guardsman or reservist, it's very hard for you to serve."
Currently no guardsmen or reservists have been mobilized longer than 24 cumulative months, Hall said, and DoD thinks this is a sustainable arrangement. Many troops have served months short of two years, and are still available to go back, he said. However, officials are always examining force requirements, and could switch to the consecutive rule, he said.
"We're not there yet, where we have used up our assets," he said. "But should that happen, and Congress wishes to change the law or give us additional authority, they can certainly do that. I have full confidence that Congress, working with us, will give us the authorities we need as well as the funds and as well as the equipment they always have."
Some guardsmen and reservists have been mobilized a second, third or even fourth time, Hall acknowledged, but almost all of them have been volunteers. Many of the troops believe in the cause they're fighting for and are asking to go back, he said.
"They are very loyal; these young men and women want to support their buddies and shipmates in a particular unit, and they volunteer to go back with that unit, even if they've gone before," he said. "They are fast becoming the next greatest generation."
DoD's goal is to get the National Guard and reserves on a schedule where units deploy for one year, and have five years at home, Hall said. For active duty, the goal is a one-year deployment with two years at home. DoD is working toward that goal, but still has progress to make, he said.
"The war on terror is not going to go away, so we have to have a long-term view; we have to look over the next 20 years," Hall said. "We have not changed our requirements; we've not changed our metrics. We are in a transition period. We're working towards those goals. In the intervening time, we might have to send someone quicker than we want."
The most recent mobilization announcements are the 218th Brigade Combat Team, South Carolina Army National Guard, which will deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and about 6,000 reservists who will deploy in units smaller than brigades to support Operation Iraqi Freedom, Hall said.
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