Joint Training: Reserve Components In the Bay Area

by Colonel Gary C. Howard, USAR, and Major Gregory K. Johnson, USAR

It isn't new math, but reservists in the San Francisco Bay Area have found that one plus one equals three. Reserve component soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and coast guardsmen there have discovered a secret weapon in joint training.

While we must "train the way we fight," both fighting and training will be joint in the next century. The Army learned long ago that tough training up front means readiness and saving lives in the long run. This basic truth applies to joint forces as well. A force of such diverse capabilities and complexity will necessitate rigorous experimentation and training to meet the demands of team cohesion, high operational tempo, and operational agility.
—General Dennis J. Reimer,
Chief of Staff of the Army

The San Francisco Bay Area is particularly rich in Army Reserve transportation assets. With its mission of providing terminal operations in the theater, our former unit, the 483d Transportation Battalion (Terminal) in Oakland, enjoys a wealth of functionally related subordinate units, including a heavy boat company (equipped with eight landing craft, utility [LCU]-2000-class vessels), a cargo transfer company, a port construction engineer company, and a movement control team. Its peacetime higher headquarters is a terminal transportation brigade, which is a Military Traffic Management Command-affiliated unit. In addition, a medium truck company is within an easy 2-hour drive.

Region Is Rich in Military Resources

The Bay Area also has other transportation resources, including units from the other services. The Naval Reserve has a cargo-handling battalion, a battalion of ammunition stevedores, and members of the Office of Control of Naval Shipping and the Military Sealift Command. The Coast Guard and Naval Reserve combine to provide a coastal harbor defense group. The Marine Corps Reserve is represented by two companies of a landing support battalion. The Air Force Reserve has an airlift control team at nearby Travis Air Force Base. In addition, the Bay Area has excellent natural harbors, outstanding port facilities, and a large population base. This concentration of functionally related units, military personnel, and equipment, in combination with other local resources, creates outstanding training opportunities.

Joint Training Reflects Reality

The practical reasons for working together are obvious. Reserve component units rarely have all of the resources they need for training. By combining units, equipment, and other resources, they can achieve a critical mass for training. More realistic training improves soldier skills. All personnel involved gain striking psychological and morale benefits from the training. As the units work together, soldiers gain a sense of pride in their ability to contribute to the greater effort. Each unit's mission takes on a new sense of importance when placed in a larger context. Soldiers can see how the whole system works. All of this can be achieved with essentially no added expense.

There are other good reasons for joint training. Our National Military Strategy now relies heavily on the reserve components. In fact, the Army no longer can go to war without calling on the reserve components. The Army Reserve's combat service support core competencies are even more important in operations other than war. The downsizing of military forces and the increasingly diverse nature of contemporary military missions also encourage the joint deployment of U.S. forces. Joint operations offer many more opportunities to build a task-oriented force of just the desired mix.

Training Together Improves Readiness

Joint training allows reserve component units to make the most of available resources. In our case, by pooling the resources found in the Bay Area, we were able to look for natural synergies that enhanced the quality of training. Each unit has soldiers, expertise, and equipment that complement those of other units. For example, the heavy boat company has LCU-2000-class watercraft, the cargo transfer company has materials-handling equipment, and the terminal transportation brigade has cargo documentation capabilities. These combine well with the Naval Reserve cargo-handling battalion's ready access to Haugland cranes on the Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Force ships lay-berthed at Oakland. The coastal defense teams add another facet to exercises, and the Marines are involved in many capacities.

The result can be measured in enhanced readiness. At its most basic, readiness in the reserve components consists of attracting and retaining trained soldiers. Drill attendance and unit status report (USR) personnel ratings are the most visible manifestations of readiness in reserve component units. The key factors that impact personnel readiness (such as recruiting, retention, and drill attendance) are all direct functions of the quality of the training. Weekend drill training—the training that a reserve component soldier receives every month—is the single most crucial element of a total training strategy. Training together means better training.

Unit Benefits From Joint Training

The result in our case was a series of outstanding joint training opportunities. These opportunities allowed us to leverage the resources of each unit, thereby improving mission-essential task list (METL) training for all. For example, in February 1997 our battalion conducted an instream cargo-discharge exercise in which the Naval Reserve cargo-handling battalion lifted our battalion's vehicles from a Maritime Administration ship and then lifted them into and out of Army watercraft. In February 1998, our battalion conducted a joint transportation exercise involving units from the Naval Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, and Coast Guard Reserve. All of our battalion's units are members of the Air Force Reserve's Affiliation Training Program and have completed training in airloading and planning. During a Wartrace command post exercise, Naval Reserve and Coast Guard Reserve representatives acted as watch officers.

In return, members of our battalion have participated in exercises conducted by the other services. The battalion has sponsored two significant transportation conferences in 2 years (a third is planned for this year) that brought together units of the various services. If these units are ever required to support a theater deployment, they will have a much greater understanding of how ports are run in a theater.

Our de facto center of transportation excellence had many advantages beyond the opportunities for high-quality inactive duty training. Using the battalion as a point of contact also allowed enhanced communication with its doctrinal components. Training at a distance became more efficient, and valuable technical resources could be used more effectively. We were able to help our commanders obtain access to the latest technical and doctrinal guidance.

To be at their most effective, reserve component units need to have training and experience in a joint environment. Yet opportunities to conduct joint training in the reserve components are limited. Many reserve component units have little understanding of the capabilities and roles of units from the other Services, despite the clear likelihood that interactions with those units will be a rapidly growing possibility for many reservists.

As drilling members of the Army Reserve, we have observed these changes firsthand. In particular, we recognize the real-world impacts of joint training for the reserve components, including the difficulties of keeping current on rapidly changing doctrine and of obtaining first-class joint training opportunities. We have further experienced the practical advantages of joint training in terms of pooling resources for monthly training.

Although our example has focused on transportation in the San Francisco Bay Area, several other areas also are rich in transportation assets, including Baltimore, Maryland; Tampa, Florida; and Tacoma, Washington. Concentrations of units in other areas of logistics can be found in many locations around the country. We believe our model of joint training is applicable and adaptable to other settings. The synergies resulting from the pooling of resources will result in enhanced training and readiness for all units involved. ALOG

Colonel Gary C. Howard, USAR, is assigned to the 311th Corps Support Command, Los Angeles, California. He previously commanded the 483d Transportation Battalion (Terminal) in Oakland, California. He holds a Ph.D. in biological sciences from Carnegie-Mellon University and is a senior scientific editor for an independent biomedical research institute affiliated with University of California.

Major Gregory K. Johnson, USAR, is an inspector general with the 63d Regional Support Command in Los Alamitos, California. He was the S3 of the 483d Transportation Battalion. He currently is enrolled in the Army Command and General Staff College. He holds an M.B.A. degree from the University of Pennsylvania and is an investment manager for a commercial real estate investment fund.