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Reserve force faces manning 'crisis'

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By DAVID VERGUN

Army News Service

Whenever unemployment increases, there are often media stories about CEOs and small-business owners seeking workers skilled in high-demand occupations.

The CEO of the Army Reserve said he’s scouting for talent as well.

All the time, people tell Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley how the recent drop in force structure end strengths must mean that recruiting and retention must no longer be a problem, he said.

But that just isn’t the case, said Talley, who is chief of the Army Reserve and commander of the U.S. Army Reserve Command. He was speaking at the 2014 USARC Commanders Conference in Alexandria, Va., July 21.

“We have a crisis in manning the Reserve. It’s a lot harder to recruit and retain than it used to be,” Talley said, acknowledging the irony of the situation.

About three out of four men and women ages 17 to 28 are not even eligible to be recruited, he said, particularly since requirements have been tightened. Some of those requirements have to do with education and criminal records and others have to do with weight and fitness standards and even certain visible tattoos.

Besides private-sector businesses and industry, “all of the services

and components are competing for these talented young men and women,” he said.

Many Soldiers are also leaving the Reserve.

“During the last quarter we lost around 15,000 Soldiers. That’s a division worth,” Talley noted, adding that some of those retired, and some of the others didn’t meet the standards for retention.

The personnel needs of the Army Reserve are particularly challenging because many positions require a high level of skill in the science, technology, engineering and medical fields.

“A significant portion of the Army’s technical enablers—including 90 percent of civil affairs; 65 percent of logistical units; 60 percent of doctors, nurses and other health professionals; 40 percent of transportation units; 35 percent of engineers; 24 percent of military police” are provided by the Army Reserve, Talley told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during testimony on the active and Reserve force mix April 8.

Talley also told the senators that many of those Reserve occupational specialties include “capabilities not found anywhere else in the active Army, Army National Guard or sister services.”

One glimmer of hope, he said, is to recruit some of the active-component captains who are leaving the Army.

“The regular Army is downsizing significantly,” he said. “Just recently, 1,100 captains were let go. A large percentage of them had perfect OERs. We’re trying to get about 400 of those captains and recruit them by name,” he explained.

But that will be a tough sell, Talley admitted.

“They’re not going to be particularly receptive to staying in the Army after they’ve dedicated seven

years of their lives with multiple deployments, and then were asked to leave,” he acknowledged. “But they have to remember why they stayed in the Army. They love their jobs and they love helping other Soldiers. They love serving Soldiers’ families.”

During a town hall with Soldiers of the 412th Theater Engineer Command June 29, in Vicksburg, Miss., Talley said another draw for service in the Reserve is the Private-Public Partnership Initiative.

The initiative created a partnership with more than 6,000 private-sector companies, which invest resources in the Reserve to make Soldiers more marketable. These companies also provide resources for financial fitness, physical fitness and leadership training.

“I encourage you to find out more about the Private-Public Partnership Initiative, let that program help you and your Family members become more marketable in the civilian sector as you become more ready as an individual, a Soldier and a leader so you can contribute to your unit,” said Talley.

The other hot-button issue Talley emphasized during the town hall was Tricare Reserve Select. Talley sees this as a very important program for taking care of Soldiers still in the ranks and encourages Reserve Soldiers to enroll.