Please Don’t Forget the Reserves
By Captain Samuel F. Wright, JAGC, USN (Ret.)
On November 9, 2011, Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri sent out a press release announcing that he had introduced S. 1820, the proposed “National Guard Outreach Act of 2011.” In his press release, he reported that his bill, if enacted, “would help to provide National Guardsmen and women with secure health services, marriage and financial counseling, substance abuse treatment and other services necessary to aid in a smooth transition for those returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.”
His press release goes on to state, “Undiagnosed illnesses, left untreated, have long-lasting social, emotional, and financial impacts long after service members are re-integrated into a community. Many Guardsmen and women today lack health insurance and go without health care as well as behavioral health care. At no time in America’s history has the National Guard played such a critical role in the defense and security of our homeland. We must make sure all of our nation’s heroes can fulfill their missions without worrying about supporting their families when returning home.”
I looked up S. 1820 on “Thomas”—a system available on the website of the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov. I am pleased to report that under Senator Blunt’s bill as introduced these critical services would be provided to all demobilized members of the seven reserve components, not just the Army National Guard and Air National Guard. But you would not know that from the title of the bill or from Senator Blunt’s press release.
Each week, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs puts out a report showing the number of reserve component personnel currently on active duty and the total number called to the colors since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The most recent report shows that as of November 15, 2011 a total of 832,314 National Guard and Reserve personnel have been activated. Of those, 357,312 were members of the Army National Guard and 90,789 were members of the Air National Guard. Those two components account for 53.8% of those activated.
The other 46.2% are from the Army Reserve (202,737), the Navy Reserve (49,821), the Marine Corps Reserve (60,834), the Air Force Reserve (62,850), and the Coast Guard Reserve (7,971). All of these service members deserve the thanks of a grateful nation and services to help them readjust to civilian life.
This is not about rivalry between the National Guard and the other reserve components. The point is that all service members (Reserve, National Guard, and Regular) account for less than ¾ of 1% of our nation’s population (308,745,538 according to the 2010 Census).
The total force of today can be summarized by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. In a speech to the House of Commons on August 20, 1940, Churchill said:
The gratitude of every home in our island, in our empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge of mortal danger, are turning the tide of world war by their prowess and their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
The Prime Minister’s eloquent words about the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain apply equally to those who serve in the United States armed forces today.