Friday, January 07, 2005

Broken force of mercenaries?

Lt. Gen. James Helmly says the Army Reserve is no longer able to meet its commitments in Iraq. WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon's reliance on volunteers from the Army Reserve for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan risks creating a "broken force," the reserve force's commander warned his superiors in a December memo, and he urged a wider call-up of reservists to active duty.

Reserve commanders spend too much time trying to accommodate troops who don't want to serve, leaving the force unable to meet its mission requirements, Helmly concluded -- the result of policies that were designed for peacetime, "as opposed to a mobilized force in wartime."

In addition, offering a $1,000 monthly bonus to volunteers for active duty risks creating a "mercenary" culture in its ranks, he wrote.

"Contrary to a perceived intention of caring for troops, the insistence on even more restrictive policies and practices governing mobilization, manpower management and the insistence on incentivizing 'volunteers' through the use of money threatens to unhinge an already precariously balanced situation in which we are losing as many soldiers through no use as we are through the fear of overuse," he wrote.

Helmly recommended extending the mandatory retirement dates for reserve officers, rather than having to recall and retrain retired officers; and making more use of retirees who have volunteered to return to duty. Current policies have "hamstrung" the reserve as it tries to manage its force, he wrote.

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