Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mobilization - The Saga Continues

After my visit to Fort Hunter Liggett last week I got to pondering over the mobilization process and reflecting on my personal history of deployment.
Photo Source: http://www.usar.army.mil/arweb/History/Pages/NMAR.aspx

My first real active duty tour was in Viet Nam. It was my first assignment after two sets of schools and I received no special training prior to deployment. Our ROTC summer camp adopted a “You’re all going to Viet Nam” theme to stress the importance of tactical training. Frankly all I remember is one of our instructors used a famous picture of Raquel Welch as a training aid for mortar training.

The only other specific Viet Nam oriented training was at Fort Gordon, GA where the Southeastern Signal School ran an “Escape and Evasion” course where the new 2 LTs had three options: first choice was you successfully evaded the 82nd Airborne troops who were out to get you; second choice was you made it half way through the course over wooded and hilly terrain, checked in at the half way point and evaded capture; worst choice was you get captured and are subjected to ‘torture’ designed to help you resist such efforts by the enemy. One of my classmates was captured and had some severe muscle injury as a result.

Fast forward to 1997 when I was getting ready to go to Bosnia. We had several weeks at Fort Bragg where we learned useful things like how to clear a mine field and were then told never to go off the road. We left from Pope and ended up a former Mig Base in Tazar, Hungry we were in tents waiting for the bus ride from hell. Not that it was so long, but after the 25th time Mr. Bean gets rather old.

From a timing perspective I found out I was going sometime between April and May. Our orders and deployment started around 10 July. I arrived in Sarajevo on 31 July 1997 and left for home some time around Valentine’s Day 1998, with accumulated leave I was Released From Active Duty (REFRAD) around 9 March 1998 making for about 8 month’s total.

Today’s Reservist often finds out over a year in advance. They have several ‘gates’ they go through before deployment include some medical/dental checks. Yellow Ribbon (family support) events and some basic skills testing. Next comes a little more than 4 weeks at a Regional Training Center at Fot Hunter Liggett, Fort McCoy (WI) or scenic Fort Dix, NJ. This is followed by a break of about two weeks.

When the mobilization order kicks in the troops head for a Mobilization Unit In-processing Center (MUIC) for another 45 days worth of training. When all is said and done the troops are on the ground for about 9 months. The average dwell (stay at home) time is about 18 months.

This comes down to a 2 and ½ year planning cycle where the Reserve soldier has to balance family, military and civilian career. Civilian career time also includes any schooling – military or academic that the individual must accomplish.

This Herculean burden is one reason why the Reserve and the National Guard are often called “twice the soldier”.

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