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New reserve-to-active program has Navy looking for applicants

Apr. 13, 2013 - 10:01AM   |  
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The Navy is seeking hundreds of reservists to join the active-duty ranks.

Under the new Enlisted Reserve to Active Component Augmentation Program, the Navy doesn’t need a presidential wartime mobilization or require a sailor to visit a recruiting station — though those options remain open. This new option can make reservists a full part of the active component in less than a week.

Traditionally, the reserve mobilizes sailors to fill a need and then demobilizes those sailors back to a drilling reserve status once the need has passed — or been taken over by active-duty sailors.

With the new program, these sailors don’t mobilize, and instead re-enlist with a new active-duty contract. They aren’t obligated to return to the reserve — though that door is open — once they complete their contract.

This capability is unlike any other in the Defense Department, officials say. It has been in the works for more than six years after the concept was initially developed by Vice Adm. John Cotton and then brought to reality by Vice Adm. Dirk Debbink, who then handed it over to the current reserve chief, Vice Adm. Robin Braun, to execute.

The Navy formally announced the program with a fleetwide message in September and has gradually increased the desired ratings and skill sets. Today, there are 1,881 openings in roughly 24 ratings for reservists to return to the fleet full time.

Those openings are listed by rating, paygrade and “year group,” a relatively new way officials are managing the enlisted force. This ensures they’ve got enough people moving through the system to meet their needs. It has been used in the officer corps for years.

Despite the full-court press for applicants, the Navy has received fewer than 120 applications. Only 41 have been approved. An additional 33 applications are still under review.

Reserve force shrinking

The reserve has also streamlined the process of moving active-duty sailors into the reserve. And it is always looking for qualified officers and enlisted to fill the ranks, Braun said.

Even so, the reserve is poised to drop by 4,500 personnel, from 63,500 to 59,000, by the end of 2014. At the end of 2001, there were about 88,000.

“While billets are being reduced, we are not involuntarily separating any sailors,” Braun said. “In communities that are drawing down, we will use a combination of normal attrition and reduced accessions to get to the right number of personnel.”

Braun said since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 70,000 individual reserve mobilizations have occurred in support of the Navy, as well as Army and Marine Corps units.

“We’ve surged to meet [overseas contingency] requirements for [operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom],” she said. “Our sailors have deployed both as units and as individuals to support global demands that include combat, stability and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”

As of April 9, 4,420 reserve sailors were mobilized as units or individual augmentees, down from a peak of approximately 7,000 in 2010, during the Afghanistan surge.

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