By Rebecca Autrey
(Jan. 8, 2014) Striking the right balance between active-duty soldiers and reserves, in particular the National Guard, will be a key component of military success as things reshuffle after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Gen. Ray T. Odierno, the Army chief of staff.
Odierno’s comments came Tuesday during a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washngton, D.C. He was answering a question about whether the Guard can provide combat troops at a fraction of the cost of the active-component Army.
“There’s a reason why the active component is more expensive,” he said. “It brings you a higher level of readiness because they’re full time. They are trained and ready to do things at a higher level because they spend every day focused on that. Our National Guard, who’s done an incredible job in the last 10 years, trains 39 days a year.”
That difference is why, Odierno said, the two components aren’t interchangeable. He argued instead that they should be seen as complementary to each other, and the Army is working to find the right balance between the two.
After force reductions, Odierno said, the Army aims to have a force that’s 54 percent in the reserve component and 46 percent in the active component. He expects that ratio will meet national security needs and allow the Guard to meet its dual federal and state mission.
During the hour-long question and answer session, Odierno also touched on other challenges facing the Army, including the current instability in Iraq.
On Iraq, Odierno said the disintegration of security after U.S. troops left was disappointing to see.
“I believe we left it in a place where it was capable to move forward,” he said.
He said it’s time to see if Iraqi officials and troops can take back the country without U.S. boots on the ground. When asked if the U.S. “blew the endgame” and removed troops too soon, Odierno used an analogy fit for a coach.
“I think we can all be Monday morning quarterbacks on this,” he said. “The answer is I don’t know.”
Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, will address a similar luncheon at the National Press Club Thursday.