Local Reserve command’s changing role discussed during Westphal visit
During the visit late last week, Brig. Gen. Fernando Fernández, accompanied by Command Sgt. Maj. Rene Rivera, briefed Westphal about the command’s capabilities and readiness, and the support that the largest U.S. Army command in the Caribbean has provided to the nation during the past decade.
“Approximately 95 percent of our units have mobilized since [the] 9/11 [terrorist attacks],” Fernández said. “Despite that fact, voluntarism on the island continues to be strong.”
During the briefing with Westphal, Fernández also explained details about other missions being conducted by the U.S. Army Reserve-Puerto Rico.
“Beside the continuous support that we provide to the War Against Terrorism, our current operations also include annual training exercises, both in the States and overseas, as well as participation in Theater Security Cooperation missions,” Fernández said.
Participation in Theater Security Cooperation missions has been identified by Army Reserve leaders as one of the possible ways the Reserve forces could apply the operational nature of its forces and the institutional knowledge gained after more than 10 years of persistent conflict, once operations in Afghanistan end.
The future of the Army was also a subject of discussion during the encounter between Fernández and Westphal.
“Naturally, as we reshape the force, we have to be much more creative in sustaining the readiness of the Reserve forces,” Westphal said while explaining the future of the forces under the current reality of fiscal constraints. “We need to look at the last 10 years of combat operations and how you contributed to that effort, what lessons we take from that and how we need to be ready for future challenges, while sustaining the requirements here in Puerto Rico.”
“If you look at the historical cycle of funding for the Department of Defense, we have had continuous ups and downs,” the under secretary added.
Before 9/11, the Army Reserve was essentially a strategic force engaged primarily in training one weekend a month and two weeks every year. After 9/11, the Reserves became an operational force providing capabilities to the nation on an extended basis. The U.S. Army Reserve-Puerto Rico has mobilized some 5,000 troops in support of current operations.
“It would be easy for the Army to fall back to the pre-9/11 days, but we do not want to do that,” Westphal said.
The meeting between the under secretary of the Army and the senior U.S. Army Reserve officer in the Caribbean took place as the Pentagon prepares to reduce spending by $487 billion in the next decade.