More proof of the value reserves provide to militaries comes from US Africa Command (Africom) which sees mission accomplishment as not being possible without National Guard and Reserve Component members who serve at its Stuttgart headquarters year round.
“The experience and knowledge the men and women of the Guard and Reserve Component bring to the table from their civilian jobs enables Africom to utilise them wherever required. They get the job done, irrespective of unit or assignment,” said Colonel Steve Breen, the Command’s Senior Reserve Advisor.
“The National Guard and Reserve team has made significant impact on missions in the Africom area of responsibility. They achieve this by providing support to key programmes on the African continent.”
In the current financial year more than 70 Reserve personnel supported the command, both at its Stuttgart headquarters and on the ground in Africa, saving money that would otherwise have been spent on contractors. Between fiscal years 2014 and 2015, US reserve and National Guard personnel will have saved $1.2 million, according to Breen.
The Reserve Component available to Africom represents a variety of operational skillsets, ranging from intelligence analysts and logistics planners through to human resource experts, operations planners and others. They are typically on order for at least 180 days a year, Breen said.
In South Africa the Reserve Force has long been acknowledged as an important part of the country’s overall defence capability with Joe Modise, the first Defence Minister of the democratic era, also supporting it. He said: “It is universally acknowledged that in a democratic country the citizen in uniform, the part-time soldier, is an indispensable element of a country’s defence”.
More recently, in September this year, Defence Secretary Dr Sam Gulube said the Reserve Force was “an absolute requirement” and Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s thoughts on the Reserves include “their sacrifices together with the understanding of their families are greatly appreciated”.
The Minister has acknowledged special skills is a problem area the SANDF has to face but the Reserves offer SA Army Chief Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo a pool of accountants, lawyers, engineers and others to call on when expert advice is needed. Similarly, Surgeon General Lieutenant General Aubrey Sedibe has access to Reserve Force medical practitioners and specialists.
Faced as it is on a continuing basic with funding shortages, the cost-effectiveness of the SA Army Reserve is a pointer to better management of particularly the large salaries and wages bill of the SANDF. The Army Reserve consumes only 7.5% of the total landward force salary budget.
The SANDF Reserve Force strength currently stands at 22 000 of which about 15 000 are called up each year for an average of 180 days. This number meets the requirement of milestone one as set down by the Defence Review.
Of the 14 668 reserve members called up during the year ending 31 March 2014, the majority were utilised for internal deployment under Operation Corona, the safeguarding of South Africa’s borders. Specifically, 7 of the 13 companies deployed for border protection are Reserve Force members, or 55% of the forces deployed.
The Reserves also contribute to the manpower required for continental peacekeeping operations, such as the 1 000 South African soldiers serving in the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The percentage of Reserve Force members on foreign deployment is believed to be 25% of each battalion, i.e., 1 of 4 companies.
Of the 14 668 members called up last year, 10 316 served in the SA Army, 1 529 in the SA Military Health Services, the Divisions accounted for 1 409, the Navy another 619 and 495 served in the Air Force. It is not known with whom the balance of 300 members served.