By Ian Graham
The Reserve component of the military is playing a huge role in Operation Unified Response, “thickening” the efforts made by active-duty servicemembers in helping Haitians following last week’s devastating earthquake.
Dennis McCarthy, assistant secretary of defense for Reserve affairs, spoke with the Pentagon Channel today after President Barack Obama issued an order allowing the Department of Defense to activate Reservists, especially medics, to supplement the troops already working in Haiti.
“Members of the armed forces ordered to active duty pursuant to these authorities will augment the active forces in support of operations for Haiti,” Obama wrote in a memo to the leaders of the House and Senate; the order didn’t designate specific units, but rather gave authority to support targeted objectives.
McCarthy said some of the first responders to the disaster were reservists, working under U.S. Southern Command, who were in the area on stand-by when the earthquake struck. Since then, a number of reserve units have been called up across the services, from Navy doctors working aboard the USNS Comfort to a Coast Guard unit who will run port security in Port-au-Prince.
Something the reserve component can provide that isn’t as well-represented in active-duty services is Civil Affairs units. These units, which help coordinate military leadership’s objectives with local government, will likely be deployed in the future, as the relief effort becomes one of reconstruction rather than a medical emergency.
Concerns have been voiced that the mission in Haiti will add more stress to a force already spread thin by conflicts around the world. But with these deployments, McCarthy hasn’t noticed an increase in stress among reservists.
“I don’t think they’re being over-used,” he said. “We have plenty of capacity left to handle … what pops up around the world.”
The strength behind the reserves (and the military as a volunteer organization), he said, is their willingness to serve when called, and to face whatever comes their way. Every member of the military either joined the service or re-enlisted since Sept. 11, 2001, so they are all very aware of what they’re getting into.
“I think that speaks volumes about the kind of people we have in the reserve component,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think I can say enough about their patriotism, their capability or what kind of people they are.”