The Navy Reserve: 100 Years and Counting
Ready then, ready now, ready always
"I never thought one weekend a month and two weeks a year could turn into 24 hours a day and 365 days a year so fast," said Cryptographic Technician (Technical) 1st Class Bobby Fleetwood.
That is a feeling shared by many who follow the path that Fleetwood has chosen. They work hard all week long punching the clock, working in every career field imaginable, and at night when everyone else is relaxing at home they are just starting to catch up on the work they missed that day. On the weekends when everyone else is sleeping in, they are waking up early to go for a run, because that is what is demanded of them.
They come from small towns and big cities. They come from the highest levels of corporate America, and from the blue collar men who built it. However, when our nation calls them, they take off their suits, put down their hammers, and leave behind the families and careers they have worked so hard for. They are the men and women of the United States Navy Reserve, and for 100 years they have answered the nation's call in war time and in peace. They were ready then, they are ready now, and they will be ready always.
The Navy Reserves were officially established March 3, 1915, as the Federal Naval Reserve. However, with World War I on the horizon it would soon change again, and on Aug. 29, 1916 it was reorganized and renamed as the U.S. Naval Reserve Force, becoming the organization it is today.
Upon entering World War I on April 6, 1917, there were approximately 8,000 Sailors serving in the Naval Reserve Force. When the fighting ended a little over a year later there were more than 250,000 reservists serving in the Navy making up over half of the Navy's wartime force.
Rear Adm. Joseph Callo, retired, New York, New York, served with distinction in the Navy Reserve before hanging up his uniform. He has since written numerous books and articles about U.S. Naval history, and is considered by many to be one of the foremost experts on the subject.
Having a Navy Reserve force ready to respond is absolutely necessary to U.S. Naval success, said Callo.
"Our current approach provides a force that can quickly be expanded and contracted to meet rapidly changing global circumstances," said Callo. "There are immense benefits to the citizen warrior concept, and it is a hugely beneficial link between the military and civilian elements of American society."
These links would become more and more beneficial over the years and by the summer of 1941, two years after the start of World War II in Europe, almost all members of the Navy Reserve Force were serving on active duty. During that time it would grow from a force of around 383,000 members to more than 3,400,000 members at the wars end. The Reserve made up almost 84 percent of the Navy's fighting force during the war and included five future U.S. Presidents and 15 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Since that time Navy Reserve Sailors have taken part in almost every armed conflict from the Korean and Vietnam Wars to the first Gulf War and the contingencies in Bosnia and Kosovo. Since September 11, 2001 there have been more than 70,000 mobilizations of Selected Reservist in addition to more than 4,500 deployments by Reservists serving on Full Time Support.
The Navy Reserve's contribution to national defense has been vital for the active duty Navy to provide the essential sea power component our national security has demanded of it, said Callo.
"Over the past 100 years the Navy Reserve has gone from a stand-by force to becoming an everyday operational component of the U.S. Navy," said Callo. "We are one, and we are ready now."
Today there are more than 60,000 drilling Navy Reserve Sailors, making up almost 25 percent of the Navy's total force, drilling out of 123 Navy Operational Support Centers (NOSCs) covering all 50 states as well as Guam and Puerto Rico. As such the role of the Reserves is as important as ever with Sailors taking part in everything from combat prevention and support, to peacekeeping and humanitarian aid missions.
Fleetwood, from Haysville, Kansas, has served in the Navy, and Navy Reserve, for eight years. He has taken part in a wide range of missions and now works to impart the knowledge and traditions he has learned to the junior Sailors working under him.
"Being a Navy Reservist means everything to me," said Fleetwood. "Everything I own, every foreign shore I have sailed, every adventure I have embarked on, has been given to me by the Navy and the Navy Reserve. It is a way of life that most people never get to experience."
The Navy Reserve Sailors of today are patriots who balance their military obligations with their civilian careers and families. Professionals in every part of their lives they bring the leadership and dedication learned from the military to their civilian careers and the technical knowledge and experience from their civilian careers back to the military.
"The Navy has groomed me to be more efficient, dedicated, and attentive than I could have been if I only knew the civilian world," said Fleetwood. "As a Sailor I possess discipline born of sacrifice, knowledge built from experience, and pride developed by the heritage and traditions passed along by my shipmates that I can, in-turn, work to instill in the men and women I work with day in and day out in the civilian world."
However, the Navy Reserve isn't as easy as it sounds. It requires a dedication that for most extends outside of the traditional "one weekend a month, two weeks a year" requirement that the Navy advertises. To truly succeed Reserve Sailors often have to put in extra hours throughout the week while maintaining a civilian career, and life outside of the Reserves. It is the self-motivation and a can do attitude that defines the Navy Reserve Sailors of today.
"Sometimes it seems nothing is working out the way it should, and that you are tripping every step of the way," said Fleetwood. "One day an amazing Chief helped me realize that regardless of where I ended up, I could always look back and see that every step I made was a small victory. Whether it was in stride, or I fell on my face. I was still one step closer when I got back up."
In return for their service and sacrifices the Navy Reserve offers Sailors the chance to continue to better themselves by giving them opportunities to go to school or continue their careers while also getting the travel, training, income, and benefits that only the U.S. Navy can provide.
"Before I joined, I had already succumbed to the romance of the Navy," said Fleetwood. "Sailing to foreign lands, meeting exotic people, and steaming through the raging main. The Navy Reserve has given me the opportunity to enjoy the best the Navy has to offer while still allowing me time to live the life I want to live in the civilian world."
As the future continues to unfold in unpredictable ways the Navy Reserve has to stand ready to meet any challenge. As it has done in the past it plans to continue to utilize the skills its Sailors have learned from both their military and civilian careers in the best way possible to complete its mission.
Vice Adm. Robin R. Braun is the Chief of Navy Reserves, and Commander, Navy Reserve Force. It is her job to oversee the Navy Reserve, and most importantly, to help point it in the right direction for the future.
Braun said one of her favorite quotes is by former President of the United States, and Navy Reserve Lieutenant, John F. Kennedy when he said that: "Today we need a nation of minute men; citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life, and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom."
It is those types of citizens that Braun believes will be critical to the success of both our nation and our Navy over the next century.
For 100 years the Navy Reserve Force has been there to answer the call of our nation and to meet any challenge in war time or in peace. Now as it turns its eyes to the future it stands ready to answer that call again.
"Over the next century the Navy Reserve will remain an ever present and pivotal component of the U.S. Navy," said Braun. "In a world where danger lurks around every corner we will have to rely on the men and women of the Navy Reserve to be willing, ready, and able to meet any challenge whenever, and wherever they are called."
From the Sailors who have served and sacrificed over the past 100 years the Navy Reserve draws its inspiration, from the reserve Sailors serving today it draws its strength, and for the families of its Sailors, and its country, it stands ready to act in an uncertain future. The Navy Reserve Force was ready then, it is ready now, and it will be ready always.