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Right Reservists
11/20/2002 - National Guard Bureau News

ARLINGTON, Virginia - Putting the right National Guard and Reserve people into the right places to help this country wage its war against terrorism or deal with domestic emergencies is the idea that is driving Thomas Hall’s train as the new assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs.

“The guiding principal for all of us should be that we have the right reservists with the right equipment, with the right training, at the right place, at the right time to help make a difference in any conflict,” stressed the new civilian leader of 46 percent of the United States’ total military force.

That is his biggest challenge, said Hall on November’s third Tuesday during his first meeting with Pentagon reporters after his first six weeks on the job. The retired two-star Navy admiral was sworn in on Oct. 9 as the fourth person to hold that position. He made no bones about the fact that he has just as many questions as he does answers at a time when many demands are being placed on the reserve forces.

“My major challenge is how do I that. How do I get that right reservist, that right equipment and the right training? That’s what I’m looking at,” said Hall on the day that 51,358 Guard and Reserve troops were on active duty at home and abroad.

No reservists, he insisted, have been told to get ready to possibly go to Iraq because that would be premature. No one, he added, has decided which missions now being performed by members of the Guard and Reserve ought to be assumed by active duty forces, a subject that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has asked to be examined. And he believes that the reserve components can work more closely together to help themselves.

Hall made it clear that he is much more concerned about using the 1.3 million members of the seven reserve components wisely rather than impressing people with numbers.

“We should never have one more reservist on active duty than we need. And we should not have one less. We don’t need to have an insatiable appetite for reservists and have more, but we don’t need to have less than we have to to do the job,” Hall said.

The 1963 Naval Academy graduate brought considerably more than six weeks of experience with reserve affairs into his Tuesday meeting with the Pentagon press corps.

Hall was chief of the Naval Reserve from 1992-96 before retiring after 34 years of active service. He was the executive director of the Naval Reserve Association for six years before President George W. Bush appointed him and the Senate confirmed him as assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs.

He is a decorated naval aviator who served a combat tour in Vietnam. He has commanded Patrol Squadron 8, Naval Air Station Bermuda and the Iceland Defense Force. The president of Iceland awarded Hall the Order of the Falcon with Commander’s Cross.

He got on the fast track early by being named one of the top 25 leaders in his class at Annapolis after commanding the academy’s top battalion and company while earning a degree in engineering. He earned a master’s degree in public personnel management from George Washington University in 1971.

Hall has prepared a list of 10 issues affecting the strength and readiness of all of the reserve components that he is now watching over. They are: 1. mobilization and demobilization, 2. active-reserve mix, 3. pay and compensation, 4. Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve, 5. constituents, 6. equipment, 7. training, 8. infrastructure, 9. recruiting and retention, 10. medical, dental and operational readiness.

“Secretary Rumsfeld has asked all of us to look at what missions might be placed in one component or another,” Hall explained about the second point. He observed that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the new war on terrorism have increased the requirements for people in, for example, civil affairs and military police, fields that have been placed in the Guard and Reserve during the past 10 years to save money.

Now it’s a question of whether some of those assets should be relocated to the active forces, he said, because calling up the same reserve people two or three times creates hardships for civilian employers and could affect recruiting and retention.

“The concern is how we’re going to balanced,” Hall said. “I don’t see any large-scale movements. No decisions have been made.”

He also believes that the reserve components can work more closely together.

“I think we should look at such things as continental air defense,” said Hall who indicated that Guard and Reserve components can more effectively support each other to help relieve operational tempo.

“Is that strictly an Air Force-Guard mission? Or are there naval aircraft that could do that or Marine aircraft? We need to look at that in a very joint sense,” said Hall about the air sovereignty mission now assigned to the Air National Guard.

That, Hall said, is one example of how the components might help each other.

It is also just one of the questions for which Assistant Secretary Thomas Hall must now try to find the answers as the civilian leader for all of this country’s reserve forces.