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April 23 marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Army Reserve. This is occasion is noteworthy given the history of the Army Reserve, and its mission since September 11, 2001.The Army Reserve’s 100th anniversary validates our nation’s enduring need for such a force, and the event gives Americans the opportunity to recognize the contributions of hundreds of thousands of men and women who served our nation for a century.Further, our anniversary recognizes that the force has changed dramatically over 100 years to meet the needs of our nation. It began as a small reserve force of about 160 medical professionals. It became a much more capable force that provided all types of combat arms, combat support, and combat service support capabilities. And today it is an operational, expeditionary and domestic force that is an essential piece of the Army.What hasn’t changed in 100 years is the commitment, selfless service, and personal courage of our men and women who voluntarily put their lives on hold – and on the line – to defend our country and our freedoms. Since terrorists slammed hijacked airliners into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, PA, Sept. 11, 2001, the men and women of the Army Reserve have served on the front lines of the War on Terrorism at home and abroad. More than 190,000 Army Reserve Soldiers have mobilized to serve in Iraq, Afghanistan and more than a dozen other countries. That includes about 23,000 Army Reserve Soldiers currently on active duty; about 17,000 currently serving overseas; and another 6,000 supporting homeland defense missions at training centers, mobilization sites, and medical centers. About 15,000 currently serve in Iraq or Afghanistan.Throughout the history of the force, Army Reserve Soldiers who served our nation brought with them unique values and skills.When Army Reserve units mobilize, during both war and peacetime, they bring significant support and concern from their communities with them. Like our National Guard counterparts, Army Reserve Soldiers provide an enduring connection between the military and local communities across our nation.At the same time, each time Army Reserve Soldiers deploy overseas, they bring part of America with them. They often deliver the best of America to the children of a country as they demonstrate our country’s generosity and concern for them and people in other nations around the world.Another constant is the value of civilian-acquired skills Army Reserve Soldiers bring to help make the U.S. Army the most powerful and sophisticated military force in the world. Army Reserve Soldiers play critical roles in supporting combat troops, and they are a vital part of full-spectrum operations (from peacetime support to combat) necessary in any major campaign or operation.They drive trucks in supply convoys, provide security as military police and staff hospitals as doctors and nurses. Reserve civil affairs specialists also establish police and fire departments and local governments - key efforts in stabilizing countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.Today, as we mark our 100th anniversary, our transformation from a “strategic reserve” to an “operational force” continues. It has resulted in the most dramatic changes to Army Reserve structure, training and readiness since World War II.The days when Army Reserve Soldiers committed one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer to soldiering duties are gone. The weekend warrior is no more.Today’s Army Reserve Soldiers are “Warrior-Citizens.” They are warriors who fight for our nation, and they are also citizens, but their involvement in military operations has been tremendously expanded. Young men and women serve in today’s Army Reserve because they want to defend our country. They fully expect that they will be called upon – on a regular basis – to do just that. They know they must maintain a high state of readiness, both physically and mentally. They know they will be asked to make great sacrifices – to leave their families and their civilian jobs – to serve our nation. Today’s Army Reserve Soldiers represent the values upon which our country was founded. They are citizens who are willing to lay down their plows and pick up their rifles when called upon. They’re proud of their service. They’re proud to say they’re part of the Army Reserve.Today’s Army Reserve is no longer a strategic reserve; instead, it is an operational force and an integral part of the world’s greatest Army. Today’s units are prepared and available to deploy with a full complement of trained Soldiers and equipment when the Nation calls. Army Reserve Soldiers are members of the best trained, best led, and best equipped fighting force any nation has fielded. The U.S. Army Reserve, including the units in New Mexico as well as my unit in Chicago, is ready for the next 100 years.
Brigadier General Doug Anson is a Commander, 3rd Brigade, 75th Division, Ft. Sheridan, IL, and Los Alamos resident.