Tuesday, August 31, 2010

RAND Study Finds Reserve Component Unit Instability

Andrew Gonyea
Communications Assistant

According to a recent study from the RAND National Defense Research Institute, Army Reserve Component (RC) units experience considerable personnel turbulence in the period leading up to mobilization and deployment, affecting unit stability and training prior to deployment.

The study, prepared for DoD, found that 40-50 percent of soldiers in 153 RC unit deployments from 2003 through 2008 were new arrivals who had been in the unit for less than a year. The primary causes of this instability were soldiers moving to another unit (including “cross-leveled” personnel to reach the unit’s target for deploying strength) soldiers leaving the service, and nondeployers.

Nondeployers made up about 30 percent of soldiers in the RC units on the deployment date. The study cites several explanations for this fact: some did not deploy with their unit but then moved to another unit, some deployed later, some stayed back as part of a rear detachment, some had prior activations and so were probably exempt from another near-term deployment, and some were new recruits who had not yet completed initial training.

Read the research brief

Notably, RC officer instability was higher than that of junior enlisted personnel and NCOs, due to the fact that officers tend to be transferred out of a deploying unit into another unit.

Because RC units often conduct important training a year or more before mobilization, and the rapid buildup of personnel doesn’t begin until four to six months before mobilization, new arrivals have to make up key training events. This affects training efficiency and scheduling. To adjust, many of the RC units observed pushed training closer to mobilization when unit manning was more stable.

Despite personnel instability and training inefficiencies, the study found that ninety-five percent of those who deployed were in place by the mobilization point, training was completed, and no theater arrival dates were missed. And although concentrating training in the short period of time before mobilization can be stressful for RC personnel, a possible alternative, postponing some training until after mobilization, could increase the duration of mobilization or reduce time in theater.

In summary, the study identified a problem, but found that no clear-cut policy solutions exist. Unit instability may be a fact of life for the RC. The RC has been resilient thus far, and will have to continue to be resilient in today’s Total Force environment.

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