After 11 years of war and as the United States draws down in Afghanistan, soldiers in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve will largely see a return to the peacetime schedule of drilling one weekend a month and two weeks a year.
However, in an effort to maintain the components’ readiness and combat edge, some soldiers can expect additional training days as they get closer to the fifth year of the Army Force Generation model.
The Guard and Reserve are on a five-year rotational ARFORGEN model, which progressively resets and trains units for possible deployment. Units spend a year in reset and three years in training. During the fifth year, they are available for mobilization and deployment if needed.
As units move through the training years, they can expect more training days — typically up to two or three weeks more than the standard 39 days of training Guard and Reserve soldiers do each year.
“The vast majority of the Army National Guard will go back to one weekend a month and two weeks of annual training, as well as schools and other professional military education [that] soldiers do throughout their careers,” Lt. Gen. William Ingram, director of the Army National Guard, said Aug. 4 during an interview on C-SPAN.
However, “selected units” will participate in extra training to prepare for missions such as theater security cooperation and other duties that will come up after the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, Ingram said.
For example, the Guard’s brigade combat teams, because of their size and the complexity of their missions, likely will receive a longer annual training period during the third year of training. This could include a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., or the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.
Also likely to receive more training are Guard Special Forces units, officials said.
This will allow reserve-component units to hone and maintain their skills while better preparing them for mobilization, according to Army officials.
It also will help the Army ensure reserve-component units are properly manned, trained and equipped, Army officials said.
The Army Reserve runs “very large” exercises at the company and battalion levels, which involve soldiers from the Guard, active Army and the other services, said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, chief of the Army Reserve and commanding general of Army Reserve Command.
“What we’re trying to do, by making sure we’re training and working regularly day in and day out in these large exercises, that’s how we stay part of the operating force,” he said.
Talley said most Army Reserve soldiers can expect to do 39 training days a year — two days a month plus 15 days of annual training.
However, “39 days is not a lot of time for a soldier to get proficient,” he said.
“There are some units in the Army Reserve, they don’t need more than 39 days a year to stay ready,” Talley said.
This includes smaller units such as chaplain or postal units, or highly specialized units where soldiers rely on their civilian-acquired skills.
There are then units that will need more than 39 days a year of training as they move toward the “available” year of the ARFORGEN, he said.
“In the training and ready [years], you’re going to get more than 39 days of training,” Talley said.
How much more? It depends, he said.
“You may do 21 days of annual training instead of 15,” Talley said. “Our thought is civilian employers will support that as long as they have predictability and as long as it’s not a significantly longer time.”
Talley also noted that during a unit’s available year, soldiers will not necessarily be tasked for a yearlong mission.
“What the Army Reserve is saying is we want you to use us in our available year,” he said. “Let’s say it’s not an Afghanistan mission. There are still a lot of missions the Army Reserve can do abroad, maybe 90- to 120-day tours.”
This could include a medical or engineer mission in Africa or a training exercise in the Pacific, he said.
Focus on predictability
The priority is to give soldiers, their families and employers predictability, said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Schultz, the senior enlisted soldier for the Army Reserve.
And the demand for Army Reserve troops in Afghanistan hasn’t gone away, he said.
Civil affairs and psychological operations soldiers are still in demand in theater, he said, as are medical, transportation, and logistics and sustainment soldiers.
“As we move forward, the Army Reserve … is trying to stay in that cyclic rate for families and to give that predictability to the employers, families and the soldier,” he said.
In the past decade, National Guard and Reserve soldiers were mobilized at record levels. During 2005, the active Army was bolstered by more than 100,000 National Guard soldiers. Guard and Reserve make up 51 percent of the Army, according to Army officials.
Current commitments to Afghanistan could mean a year of deployment for Guard and Reserve troops will continue until the U.S. withdrawal of forces there concludes in 2014.
But the Army also is looking ahead to determine how best to use reserve-component soldiers, Army officials said.
With Guard and Reserve soldiers, the Army must consider the time they have available to train and how to balance that with their civilian employers, according to the officials.
There also are missions that traditionally have fallen to the Guard and Reserve, including in Bosnia, Kosovo and the Sinai.
The Army is working hard to reach a balance in training that allows units to achieve their required readiness while remaining acceptable to families and employers, according to Army officials.
“The Guard has been at war for the past 10 years, incredibly, and answered the nation’s call,” said Col. Carlton Day, chief of the mobilization and readiness division for the Army Guard. “Right now, given Iraq’s completion and hopefully Afghanistan in the next couple of years, the Guard will go back to being that operational force that our nation needs. We’ll get back to those training days we need to support some type of stability for our families, but we’ll always be ready.”