By Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe
Army Reserve Communications
ARLINGTON, Va. — Army Reserve Ambassadors met Tuesday to get an update about the Army Reserve and talk about ways to reach out in their communities.
“The Army Reserve Ambassador Program is very important to me,” said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley, the chief of Army Reserve and commander of U.S. Army Reserve Command. “You are very important to the Army Reserve, the Army and the nation.”
Talley said the conference emphasized the importance of the Ambassador Program by bringing together the ambassadors and the Army Reserve’s leadership team. He also urged the ambassadors to develop relationships with elected officials in their communities as well as leaders in the local Army Reserve commands.
Army Reserve Ambassadors, many of whom have served in the Army Reserve, also can help mentor young officers and commanders in their home communities, said Maj. Gen. Glenn Lesniak, the Army Reserve’s deputy commanding general support.
The Army Reserve faces dwindling resources, and many of the ambassadors were key leaders in the Army Reserve during similar times in past decades, he said.
“Your experiences in the 1980s and 1990s and early 2000s are valuable today,” Lesniak said.
This year, there are 14 new ambassadors, said Vonda Chisolm, the Ambassador Program coordinator. Of those, 11 were sworn in Tuesday by Talley.
The program has 111 ambassadors in all 50 states.
One of the newest Army Reserve Ambassadors, Candis Martin, is a Gold Star Mother.
Her son, 1st Lt. Tom Martin, died in October 2007 in Al Busayifi, Iraq, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire during combat operations. He was serving as a member of the active component.
“Since then, I’ve been an advocate for Gold Star Families nationwide,” Martin said. In 2010, Martin was featured as a Gold Star Mother on an Army poster that was distributed service-wide for Gold Star Mother's Day.
Martin and her husband are both retired from the Army, and this gave them some perspective as they dealt with their son’s death. Martin is a retired chief warrant officer 5 who served 38 years in the Army Reserve, and her husband is a retired sergeant major.
“It’s bigger than the Tom Martin family,” she said.
While military installations support active component families who lose a service member, Army Reserve families may have to travel 400-500 miles to get to the nearest military facility, she said.
“Once a Soldier is no longer living, that doesn’t mean that the Soldier is no longer part of the Army reserve family,” she added, saying Army Reserve Fort Family 24/7: (866) 345-8248 is an organization that can help as well.
Another of Martin’s goals is to highlight the Army Reserve through her involvement with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program. ESGR can provide a lot of support in getting communities to understand and buy into the Army Reserve, she said.
One of ESGR’s current initiatives in Texas is to get 100 business partners to sign a statement supporting National Guard and Reserve employment rights, Martin said.
Also, Martin wants to help the active component and National Guard continue to understand the Army Reserve.
She feels the components have developed a greater appreciation for each other in the last 13 years of war.
Martin spent her career in the Army Reserve as both a drilling reserve Soldier and on active duty as an Active Guard Reserve Soldier. Her last assignment was with Training and Doctrine Command at the Quartermaster School at Fort Lee. As a result, she worked closely with her counterparts from other components.
“They learn about us and we learn about them,” she added.
Army Reserve ambassador John Dyess from Tennessee said reaching out and informing elected officials about the Army Reserve is his priority.
“They know so little about us,” he said. “Telling the Army Reserve story to those who influence our future is our job number one.”
Dyess did just that during his airplane trip to the conference when, by chance, he sat next to his congressman. He and the congressman talked about what the Army Reserve does, how it contributes to the local economy and how it is an enabler to the active component, bringing combat support and combat service support troops to the fight.
Elected officials need to know the difference in roles between the Army Reserve, a federally-controlled force, and the National Guard, he added.
“The Army Reserve is the best collection of patriots that I’ve encountered in a group,” said Dyess, an Army Reserve Soldier for 29 years. “We all have the same goal – the safety of the nation.”