As part of its effort to reduce the strain of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,
the U.S. Navy is moving to integrate its 83,000 reservists into active-duty
operations, according to Vice Adm. John G. Cotton, chief of the Naval Reserve.
“We are moving away from the ‘weekend-warrior’ culture,”
Cotton told National Defense.
The chief of naval operations, Adm. Vern Clark, has ordered Cotton and other
Reserve leaders to work with Adm. William Fallon, head of U.S. Fleet Forces
Command in Norfolk, Va., to align the service’s Reserve and active-duty
forces more closely.
The Fleet Forces Command was created in October 2001 to establish common personnel,
training and equipment standards throughout the Navy’s Atlantic and Pacific
Fleets, as well as the Reserves. The Forces Command is conducting a detailed
analysis of the Reserve’s existing skills and those that active-duty commanders
would like them to have.
“For the first time, one fleet commander—acting for all other Navy
commanders—is conducting a zero-based review,” Cotton said. “Every
Reserve unit and billet is being reviewed for capability, relevance and alignment
with fleet requirements and then forwarded to the CNO for inclusion in future
budget deliberations and requests.”
As part of the alignment process, the Navy recently consolidated the three
staffs at Naval Reserve Forces Command headquarters in New Orleans into one
to serve as the provider of reserve capabilities to Fleet Forces Command.
In addition, the service has begun embedding key full-time reservists throughout
the active-duty service, from the CNO’s office, in the Pentagon, to major
commands across the fleet. “We want our reservists to learn how the active
component works, and we want active-duty commanders to see the quality of our
reservists,” Cotton said.
Whenever possible, reservists are being encouraged to schedule their two drill
days each month during the work week, rather than on weekends. “That’s
when most of the fleet works,” he said.
Some Navy reservists don’t have to be deployed for six months or longer,
as is typically the case for other services, Cotton said. Long deployments complicate
the lives of the reservists, their families and their employers.
Some Navy reservists have job specialties that permit them to be assigned short-term
missions, Cotton said. “An airline pilot, for example, can go to his airline
and say, ‘I’ve got to go to war for a couple of weeks.’”
The Navy also is trying to reduce counterproductive distinctions between active-duty
sailors and reservists. For example, the Navy in August began issuing new identification
cards. The old cards—used to gain access to military bases and facilities,
such as post exchanges, commissaries and medical clinics—specified whether
the holder was active-duty or reservist.
“The result has been that reservists, using those cards, have been treated
as ‘lesser,’” Cotton said. The new cards identify both active-duty
and reservist only as “Navy.”
Reserve units are being reorganized to strengthen job specialties that are
in demand in the wartime Navy. Since the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, for example,
the service has added 1,379 reserve billets in the fields of anti-terrorism
and force protection.
In 2002, the Navy’s construction battalions, or Seabees, two thirds of
which are made up of reservists, were combined into a single division. The new
division’s mission is to organize, train, equip and direct Seabees in
their operations around the world.
Defense officials are assigning new homeland security roles to the Naval Reserve
in such fields as harbor defense, port security, maritime surveillance, anti-terrorism,
force protection and maintenance of shipping channels.
The reservists will bolster the Coast Guard, which traditionally conducts many
of these missions, but has a force of only 37,000, Cotton said.
In July, the Navy and Coast Guard established a new joint port-security and
harbor-defense force. Naval Coastal Warfare Squadron 34—based at Naval
Weapons Station Seal Beach, Calif.—combines anti-terrorism and force-protection
units from the Coast Guard and Naval Reserve that had just returned from deployments
in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere.
Naval reservists noted the recent nomination of Vice Adm. Timothy J. Keating
to become the next four-star to head both the U.S. Northern Command and the
North American Aerospace Defense Command.
Keating, who previously served as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command
during the Operation Iraqi Freedom, will be the first admiral to hold the job,
which previously went to Air Force generals. Cotton said Keating’s selection
may reflect a greater emphasis on maritime security.
The Naval Reserves also are participating in a new officer-exchange program
with the National Guard and other Reserve components. National Guard Bureau
Chief Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum is working to establish a single Guard headquarters,
with representatives from all reserve units, in every state and U.S. territory.
“I can see a day when every state will have a Navy reservist on its joint
headquarters staff,” Cotton said.
To help Navy Reserves handle larger responsibilities, they are getting a infusion
of new equipment. In the 2004 budget, they received funding to operate an additional
frigate, bringing the total to nine. In addition, the Reserve fleet includes
10 MHC 51 Osprey coastal mine hunters, five mine countermeasure ships, a mine
countermeasure support vessel and a landing ship tank. “We’re looking
at acquiring patrol boats,” Cotton added.
In 2004, the Reserves also got money to complete the last two upgrades to their
older F/A 18A Hornet fighters, placing them on a par with the fleet’s
later model F/A-18Cs. The 2004 budget additionally enabled the Reserves to acquire
eight Swiss F-5E Tiger fighters to replace aging adversary trainer aircraft.
The Navy Reserves have their own small air force, with 35 squadrons, including
carrier-based fighters, maritime patrol aircraft, transports and helicopters.
Cotton is a product of the Reserve’s air wing. A graduate of the Naval
Academy, he became a third-generation pilot, flying a number of aircraft, including
the Hornet. He switched to the Naval Reserve in 1980, becoming a commercial
Cotton took a leave of absence from his civilian job in 2003 to return to active
duty as chief of the Naval Reserves, which have played a major role in the wars
in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 9/11, nearly 23,000 Navy reservists—about
27 percent of the total—have been mobilized to serve somewhere around
the world, including the Persian Gulf, the Pacific and bases dotted throughout
the United States.
More than 12,000 served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some units and equipment
were mobilized. But many reservists were called up individually, Cotton said.
“For example, 362 drilling reservists were mobilized to augment the staff
of the commander of the U.S. Fifth Fleet,” he said.
Strike Fighter Squadron 201, from Fort Worth, Texas, deployed aboard the USS
Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), marking the first time since the Korean War that
an entire Navy Reserve tactical aviation squadron served aboard an aircraft
When the Navy’s hospital ship, UNS Comfort, deployed to the Persian Gulf,
its crew included 800 active-duty medical personnel from the National Naval
Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. During their absence, their positions at the
center were filled, in part, by 548 reservists. Another 592 reservists were
assigned to the Marine Corps to serve as medical corpsmen on the battlefield.
Some of the casualties treated by those corpsmen were Navy reservists, Cotton
said. In July, he flew down to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., to present
Purple Heart Medals to 16 members of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14.
The Seabees, along with four others, were wounded seriously in two separate
insurgent attacks in Iraq. The other four, who remain hospitalized, already
have received their medals. Seven Seabees were killed during the attacks.
Altogether during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Navy deployed 164 ships worldwide—more
than half of the 295 vessels in the U.S. fleet. Navy officials want to maintain
this ability to “surge”—to deploy large numbers of ships quickly—in
response to world crises.
The Navy demonstrated this concept earlier this year when it launched Summer
Pulse 04. This exercise, which involved deployment of seven aircraft carrier
strike groups to five regional theaters, was supported by an estimated 80 reservists.
Typically, Cotton noted, reservists are older than active-duty sailors. “The
average reservist is in his or her mid-30s, a decade older than most active-duty
sailors,” he said.
Many reservists bring civilian skills to the Navy, Cotton said. In their civilian
careers, many have established expertise in such fields as computer technology,
security operations, business practices and foreign languages.
Altogether, the Navy has identified 800 civilian skills among reservists that
don’t exist in the active-duty service, Cotton said.
Sometimes, those skills come in handy, he said. “For example, who would
have thought, five years ago, that we would need thousands of Arabic speakers?”
Reservists are also a bargain, Cotton said. Serving 24 drill days and 14 training
days per year, they cost only 20 percent of what the Navy pays for active-duty
personnel, he said.
Navy reservists today make up only a small portion of U.S. military services,
especially compared to previous wars. During World War I, the Navy had 300,000
reservists. In World War II, four out of five sailors were reservists.
Currently, reservists represent only about 19 percent of the people in the
Navy, which has approximately 375,000 men and women on active duty. Marine reservists
number about 40,000, also 19 percent of all Marines.
National Guard, Army and Air Force Reserves make up a much larger portion of
Army and Air Force personnel. Army National Guard and Reserves include 555,000,
or 54 percent of the overall number in the Army. Air National Guard and Air
Force Reserves total roughly 18,000, or 34 percent of the Air Force.
The number of Naval Reserves actually will shrink by 2,500 in fiscal year 2005.
As part of the realignment process, coastal warfare units are being transferred
from reserve to active-component status, a fleet hospital decommissioned and
medical billets reduced.
Nevertheless, the Navy’s reliance upon its reserves is certain to grow
as the service seeks to reduce its active-duty force from a current 375,000
to 350,000. The reduction is necessary to hold down personnel costs, which “have
increased 40 percent since I have been CNO,” Clark told the Senate Armed