By Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe
Army Reserve Communications
WASHINGTON — The Army Reserve Command Sergeant Major outlined his priorities during a Wednesday morning speech at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Command Sgt. Maj. Luther Thomas Jr. spoke about a range of topics during his speech, saying first that the majority of the Soldiers with certain skill sets are in the Army Reserve.
“Our focus is combat support and combat service support,” he said.
The Army Reserve has 74 percent of the Army’s Civil Affairs units, 61 percent of Military Intelligence units, 67 percent of Quartermaster units, 94 percent of Judge Advocate General units, 80 percent of chaplains and 75 percent of the military history detachments.
The Army Reserve has about 200,000 Soldiers, with 12,600 civilians and 16,000 Active Guard Reserve Soldiers, Thomas said. This includes 135 general officers and 1,471 Sergeants major or command sergeants major.
More than 12,000 Army Reserve Soldiers are currently deployed, and more than 220,000 have been deployed since 9/11, he said.
“That’s a big population to manage and keep up with,” he said, adding there are 1,100 Army Reserve centers worldwide, including the United States and other countries like Germany, Guam and American Samoa.
This translates to 20 percent of the total Army, paid for by only six percent of the Army’s budget.
“You can’t get much more efficient than that,” Thomas said.
Many of the jobs in the Army Reserve directly relate to civilian careers, especially those in the engineering, Military Police and medical specialties, he said. Many Army Reserve MPs work in civilian law enforcement careers, and many of the medical Soldiers are civilian doctors, nurses or biomedical repair technicians.
The Command Sergeant Major’s top five priorities for the Army Reserve, included sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention, suicide prevention, manning the force, Soldier metrics, and Warrior Transition Units.
Sexual assault is a crime, Thomas said. In addition, it ruins morale of Soldiers and the units in which they are assigned.
“This is something that we just can’t have in the Army,” he said.
Suicide prevention was Thomas’ second priority.
It is difficult for Army Reserve leaders to stay engaged with their Soldiers, because they only meet on battle assembly weekends, Thomas said. However, they have to make an effort to stay in touch, he added.
“If something doesn’t look right, ask,” Thomas said. “We can’t afford to not be engaged with our Soldiers.”
Manning the force was the third priority. This means the Army Reserve must have the right number of Soldiers with the right specialties.
Right now, the Army Reserve has a shortage of mid-career noncommissioned officers, but Thomas expects that to continue to get better as younger Soldiers are promoted into those positions.
Next, Soldier readiness metrics are essential, Thomas said.
“If we’re not ready, we won’t be relevant,” he said.
Another priority Thomas listed was supporting Warrior Transition Units. He asked each commander and command sergeant major t reach out to Wounded Warriors from their units regularly whether by calling, e-mailing or visiting. Leaders need to make sure Soldiers know they care, he added.
Thomas visits Wounded Warriors and finds that most are working hard to get back into the fight.
“I go in there to cheer them up and they actually cheer me up by the time I leave,” he said.
Thomas's speech also included appearences by other speakers, including Lt. Gen. Jeffery Talley, the Chief of Army Reserve, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phyllis Wilson, the Army Reserve's Command Chief Wararnt Officer, and Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chander III.