“Our Reserve Components have played an absolutely essential role, of course, in Iraq, and continue to do so in Afghanistan, and, in fact in many other locations in my old areas of responsibility,” Mr. Petraeus said. “Indeed, in those countries, without our citizen-soldiers, our armed forces simply could not fully carry out America’s global commitments to keep our nation secure.”
Having served six straight general officer commands—five in combat—GEN Petraeus retired in July 2011 as commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and as commander of U.S. Forces—Afghanistan to become CIA director. He previously served as the 10th commander of U.S. Central Command and commanding general of Multi-National Force—Iraq during the surge.
Through this experience, he noted the repeated application of warrior and civilian skills that Reserve Component members bring to the fight.
“That combination has, of course, been particularly effective and particularly important in the complex environments we’ve been facing in the past decade,” Mr. Petraeus said. “As all here know, in addition to traditional demands of the battlefield, Iraq and Afghanistan often required our troops to be more than just warriors—to be diplomats, builders, trainers, advisers, service providers, economic developers and mediators.”
These contributions, in particular, included individual innovations from Reserve Component members that protect troops from improvised explosive devices as well as training and equipping the Iraqi army and security forces—a process he described as particularly daunting.
“[It was] one that we occasionally describe as attempting to build the world’s largest aircraft while in flight, while it’s being designed, and while it’s being shot at,” he said.
He recognized the more than 385,000 members of the Reserve Component who have mobilized in support of every U.S. military operation since 1990 and those serving today in more than 70 countries, who are “demonstrating that our citizen-soldiers are not only a strategic reserve, but a key component of our operational forces.”
Mr. Petraeus kicked off three days of sessions that bring attendees to the heart of the national security debate and discuss the future of the Reserve Component. Additional speakers and presentations at the 2012 symposium include Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy (Jan. 30), and a panel including the Reserve Chiefs and their perspectives on the total force (Jan. 31).
The symposium will wrap up Feb. 1 with presentations from GEN Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, as well as Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), and Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.).