Vice Adm. Robin Braun, newly named chief of the Navy Reserves, discussed what Reservists can expect after the drawdown. (Thomas Brown / Staff)
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More than 70,000 reservists have mobilized to support operations around the world since the Sept. 11 attacks.
But with the campaign in Iraq over and operations in Afghanistan coming to a close, the new head of the Navy Reserve is looking to the future. Specifically, what jobs reservists will hold as the Navy's focus shifts, and how best to prepare them for those duties.
Navy Times sat down with Vice Adm. Robin Braun — who took command Aug. 13, becoming the first woman to lead a reserve component in the Defense Department — to find out what's in store for reservists in the next few years.
Excerpts from the interview, edited for space and clarity:
Q. With the end of combat in Iraq and things slowing down in Afghanistan, what can we anticipate? Will reservists have fewer chances to mobilize, or will they be used in different ways?
A. I think when you look at it, in 2010 we had over 10,000 active-member Reserves who are individual augmentees. And as things wind down in Afghanistan, we're going to see that drop significantly. The reserve component will take on a larger role so that we can get active-component sailors back to sea. So [in fiscal year 2013 and 2014], you'll see a slight drop in the ... individual augmentees compared to last year.
Q. But IAs as a whole — reservists are supposed to take over a greater percentage?
A. Yes, they'll take over a larger percentage, but basically it will be about the levels we had in fiscal year '12. So you'll see FY 13 and 14 about the same, and then we'll see a drop-off in '15 when we're out of Afghanistan.
The numbers change day to day, but we're anticipating anywhere, I would say, between about 3,000 and 3,500 [IAs] per year.
Q. There are a lot of sailors who are leaving the service — before they would like — because of enlisted retention boards. What can they expect if they want to continue on with the Reserve?
A. If there are no quotas in their ratings and somebody is leaving the active component and they want to come into the reserve component, then they always have the option of changing rates to come into the reserves. But absolutely: We value every one of the sailors getting off of active duty and we hope that they would consider affiliating with the reserves.
Q. Are there any fields of work with opportunities for reservists that are emerging?
A. We're looking at cyberwarfare and how we can best support there and what capabilities we need to provide. We're looking at mine warfare — how we can support the littoral combat ships. We're also looking at unmanned aircraft systems ... and what capabilities they could use from the reserves. We're also looking at ballistic- missile defense as that rolls out, to see how we can best support there.
So there are a number of mission areas we are looking to provide support in as needed, but we're also looking at where we can provide our skill sets on a part-time basis as a surge force. And that would be things like operational planners, increased intel support, chaplain support, potentially.
Q. With the MQ-8B Fire Scout, there was recently a deployment in Africa with a Reserve squadron to support special operations — a first for that unmanned aircraft. You mentioned LCS specifically for mine warfare. Do you anticipate that those lanes may become exclusive to the reserves?
A. The jury is out on that. That will be the Navy's decision. But if they have those missions for us, we are 100 percent ready to support.
Q. Is that one of the more significant things that reservists are doing, having an increased presence in these fields?
A. I think that as the Navy looks at this — especially new technology, new ships, new equipment, new aircraft, unmanned vehicles — we are looking at what we need, what type of ratings we need to support that equipment. And so I think there are some really exciting times ahead for sailors who want to do hands-on work on new equipment and new technology.
Q: What else can we anticipate in the coming years with the reserves?
A. As we look to the future of the reserves, we'll have both an operational and a strategic reserve. We'll have room for the sailors who want to do something more operational, and we'll have room for those sailors who really can only do one weekend a month and two weeks a year of active duty.
I think that's great news because I think there are a lot of people out there who have full-time jobs and family obligations that can't give more than the minimum amount of time. So we want there to be room for everybody. And consequently, those people who are able to support with a little bit more time, we'll incorporate them into the operational deployment cycles as needed.