By U.S. Army National Guard Spc. Mark VanGerpen
129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (April 25, 2013) – Lt. Gen. Jeffery Talley, chief, Army Reserve, and commanding general, United States Army Reserve Command, stood at the head of more than 500 service members on Bagram Airfield shortly after sunrise. Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phyllis Wilson, command chief warrant officer, Army Reserve, and Command Sgt. Maj. James Lambert, interim command sergeant major, Army Reserve, stood with Talley in the crowd. They had come for a birthday party. Talley, Lambert and Wilson helped service members at Bagram Airfield celebrate the Army Reserve’s 105th birthday, April 25.
They partied in true Army fashion: with an early morning, 5-km. run on a muddy road. Live music from the Air Assault Band, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), helped pump up the runners well before the race’s 6 a.m. start time on the chilly morning, while the Bagram Batman, Bagram’s caped-and-cowled public servant, posed for pictures and high-fived runners along the route. The American Red Cross handed out water during the race and provided free breakfast afterward for the soaked and mud-splattered runners.
“It looked like fun,” said Sgt. Eddie Gonzalez, military policeman, 382nd Military Police Detachment, based in San Diego, who helped handle security during the race. “I wish I could have been out there, getting all muddy like everyone else did.”
Gonzalez, who served on active duty, turned to the Reserve in order to enter the civilian world without having to leave the military life behind. “I joined the Reserve to get away from the active-duty lifestyle a little bit, try to do something else,” Gonzalez said. “Part of me just didn’t want to leave the military, so I joined the Reserve.”
So far, there hasn’t been much of a difference, he said. “It definitely is a little different,” he said. “But it has the same mindset, camaraderie and leadership traits. Everything you learn in active duty is still there.” Being a military policeman wasn’t always an option in the Reserve. The Reserve was founded April 23, 1908 as the Medical Reserve Corps, a reserve force of doctors to be called upon when needed.
Today, the Reserve’s 205,000 Soldiers work in 148 diverse military occupational specialty fields, from the medical sector to logistics, intelligence and civil affairs. The array of Reserve units on Bagram Airfield illustrates the diverse force the Reserve has become since its inception. On base are units that specialize in cargo transfer, retrograde support, transportation, law enforcement and postal service, to name a few.
The Reserve may look different today than it did at its inception more than a century ago, but the idea behind it is still the same: when the nation needs Soldiers, Reservists step out of their civilian shoes and into their combat boots. “We are citizen-soldiers,” said Brig. Gen. Phillip Churn, brigade commander for the 333rd Military Police Brigade out of Farmingdale, N.Y. “We answer the call to duty, just like our forefathers did before us. We drop what we’re doing, we leave home and go where we’re needed.”
The dual nature of a Reservist allows the Army to benefit from the professional skills of men and women from all different walks of life, Churn said. “The Army Reserve allows Americans to continue to serve their country,” Churn said. “It gives us the best of both worlds. We have our civilian lives, our families and our work, but then even when we’re back at home, that one weekend a month, a couple weeks out of the summer, we get to go out and we get to do something that we enjoy. And then when we’re called into service, we will excel.”
Wilson applauded the dedication of today’s Reservists during her visit to Bagram. Since 9/11, more than 210,000 men and women have joined the Reserve, and the future of the organization looks very bright, she said. Talley echoed her comments, saying that the Soldiers he leads have done well in making the Reserve the respected force he sees today. “Everywhere I go, whether it’s in the U.S. or abroad, everybody loves the Army Reserve,” Talley said to the gathered Reservists. “And it’s because of Soldiers like you.”
Talley’s visit ended with a reenlistment ceremony and a townhall meeting, where he held a question-and-answer session. Afterward, Talley, Wilson and Lambert helped the Reservists finish the day’s celebration with the cutting of the all-important birthday cake.