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Reserve working to balance end strength, skill sets

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (March 31, 2010) -- The Army Reserve is looking to reduce the number of Soldiers it has and ensure it has the right number of Soldiers in the right jobs.

Brig. Gen. Leslie A. Purser, deputy chief, Army Reserve, spoke March 30 to an audience of Reserve Soldiers during a "Centers of Influence" forum at the Pentagon. She said the Reserve needs to get its numbers down and put Soldiers in the right jobs.

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"We have a little bit of balancing to do -- we're a little top-heavy," she said. The current force strength for the Reserve is more than 207,000. The authorization for the Reserve is 205,000.

Being above the authorized end strength costs the Reserve money, she said, so the service is using several tactics to reach its target end strength.

"We're working with recruiting and retention, we're watching attrition, we're focused on non-participants and all those kinds of things to get us back into balance so that we can maintain the 205,000," she said.

The general said that for the next two quarters -- the third and fourth quarters of fiscal year 2010 -- the Reserve has reduced its accessions goals by 3,000.

"If we continue on the glide we are on, we will be over strength by about 9,000, according to our modeling," she said.

To cut down its end strength, the Reserve is looking to drop Soldiers who aren't participating as much as they should -- particularly those who don't show up for duty when asked to.

The Army Reserve has 12,000 unsatisfactory participants, she said.

"That's part of our problem with shaping the force. That's a lot, and we need to get rid of those guys if they are not participating in our units -- so we can make room for people who want to serve," she said.

Purser said those Reserve Soldiers who aren't showing up for drill may find themselves separated under "other than honorable" conditions instead of transferred into the Individual Ready Reserve, as in the past.

Additionally, Soldiers who are doing Active-Duty Operational Support tours for longer than a year may be transferred to the IRR -- in fact, Purser said, some commanders are transferring those Soldiers sooner than a year.

Also, Soldiers with insufficient time to deploy may also be separated before their date of separation, Purser said.

"We no longer have Stop Loss, but if you are a Soldier in a unit that is deploying (and) you only have six months before you ETS and you plan to ETS ... we are looking at early release of those guys as well," she said.

In addition to having too many Soldiers, the general said the Reserve has some changes to make in the "shape" of the force -- that means ensuring the right number of Soldiers are in the right rank and skill level.

"We don't want any more E-1s now, or E-2s," she said, saying the service is bottom-heavy on the junior enlisted grades. "We want E-5s and E-6s that come off active duty that are willing to come into the Reserve and continue their careers."

Purser also said the Reserve needs more Soldiers in the rank of sergeant first class.

To meet that goal, Purser said the Reserve has asked accessions to reduce efforts to reach out to non-prior service Soldiers and to instead focus on those leaving the active-duty force.

We want to "reach out to our active-duty brethren and figure out how to bring them into the reserve component, rather than just hanging up their career ... we want them," she said.

Also, she said, the Reserve is using bonuses to drive enlistees into critical shortages. "If you offer them more money for that (military operational specialty), hopefully they will want to join, that's our thought," she said.

Right now, Purser said, the Reserve is about four percent over on its authorization for E-3 Soldiers and about 23 percent over on its authorization for E-4 Soldiers.

"We're about 132 percent on our skill level one's," she said. "We also have something like 132 percent of chaplains assistants, for example. And we're over by 4,000 on infantrymen."

On the officer side, she said, there's too many lieutenants. But the Reserve is short on captains -- they're staffed at only 64 percent right now. And majors are also understaffed, at only 62 percent. She did say, however, that the Reserve is "fat" on both lieutenant colonels and colonels.

"We have to figure out how to grow our captains and majors, and reduce our colonels," she said.

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