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Iraq commander: Reserve, Guard at 'ramming speed'

By COL Randy Pullen

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 7, 2005) – The former commanding general of Multi-National Corps–Iraq gave his assessment of the difference between the active and reserve-component Soldiers he commanded.

“There was no difference,” said Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz as he spoke to more than 300 attendees at the Association of the United States Army’s Guard and Reserve Leadership Breakfast Oct. 3. “There is no difference.”

The III Corps commanding general had plenty of opportunities to see Army Reserve and Army National Guard Soldiers in action in Iraq. About 39 percent of the American forces in MNC-I during Operation Iraqi Freedom II were from the reserve components. That percentage has risen to 43 percent in OIFIII.

Metz used the analogy of an ancient oar-driven warship to describe the pace of operations for the Army today and the lack of difference between the components.

“We’re all at ramming speed,” he said. “If you look around at the others pulling on the oars, you can’t tell any difference in the guys on the other oars.”

Metz explained that it would have been impossible to make up MNC-I without Reserve and Guard Soldiers and units.

“You don’t fill out the joint commands without the reserve components,” he said.

Besides individual citizen-Soldiers filling staff and others positions throughout the corps, there were also complete Reserve and Guard brigade-sized units in the corps, as well as smaller reserve component units that made up sizable percentages of active component brigade-sized units. Metz provided some details on this and the accomplishments of the units to the audience of senior Reserve and Guard leaders:

 The 185th Aviation Brigade (the Catfish Brigade) of the Mississippi Army National Guard was the first reserve component aviation brigade to deploy for combat since the Vietnam War.

 About one quarter of Fort Hood’s 504th Military Intelligence Brigade were citizen-Soldiers.

 About half of the two Military Police brigades were citizen-Soldiers.

 The 197th Field Artillery Brigade of the New Hampshire Army National Guard served as MPs in Iraq. The brigade’s mission was to secure everything from Baghdad to the south, to include the main supply route. The artillerymen also were given the mission to run the Joint Visitors Bureau, which meant that the safety of VIPs was entrusted to them. “They lost two Soldiers performing this duty,” Metz said, “but no VIPs.”

 Ninety percent of the 13th Corps Support Command was from the reserve components. Metz said that the 13th COSCOM was running 200 convoys a day to keep the corps supplied with all it needed, such as the 1,000,000 gallons of diesel fuel needed daily. “I am extremely proud of the COSCOM and that 90 percent of reserve component Soldiers who made it up.”

 The Civil Affairs Soldiers in the MNC-I were almost entirely from the Army Reserve. Metz said that the work of Civil Affairs was the road to success in Iraq and that the Civil Affairs Soldiers who worked for him were great.

 The Army Reserve’s 420th Engineer Brigade from Bryan, Texas, was another critical element in the corps’ make-up. “When the insurgents were dropping bridges, cutting our main supply line,” Metz said, “the engineers went out and re-built them, despite being subjected to small arms fire, rockets and mortars. The 420th did its mission – day after day.”

 Three of the maneuver brigade combat teams were from the Army National Guard: Washington’s 81st Infantry Brigade, Arkansas’ 39th Infantry Brigade and North Carolina’s 30th Infantry Brigade. Metz said that these were tough outfits that had been assigned tough jobs, which they had done well.

Metz credited the successes of the reserve components in their understanding of the fundamentals. For example, he noted that the 30th BCT had served in Iraq in combat without losing a single Soldier to an accident. He attributed that to good leaders doing the right things to ensure safe practices were followed.

In his closing thoughts, Metz said that the tough fight that the Army was now in required that the Army be revamped. He said that the Army Force Generation Model was an absolute requirement and although the model would not be easy for combat support and combat service support units, there was no other choice but for the model to be used.

Having come into the Army in the days of the draft, Metz said that the all-volunteer Army was the way to go. He pointed out that today’s Army remains healthy because of the number of Soldiers who choose to stay with it.

Finally, he said, he said it was necessary for the tremendous partnership between the active Soldier and the citizen-Soldier to continue.

“We have to fight as a team, together,” Metz said, “and we are.”

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