WASHINGTON (AP) —The Army Reserve, whose part-time soldiers serve in combat and support roles in Iraq and Afghanistan, is so hampered by misguided Army policies and practices that it is “rapidly degenerating into a ‘broken’ force,” the Reserve’s most senior general says.

Lt. Gen. James Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve, wrote in an internal memorandum to the Army’s top uniformed officer that the Reserve has reached the point of being unable to fulfill its missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and to regenerate its forces for future missions.

The Army Reserve has about 200,000 soldiers, nearly 52,000 of them on active duty for the war on terrorism, mainly in Iraq. They provide combat support, medical care, transportation, legal services and other support. About 50 have died so far in the Iraq war.

Helmly’s Dec. 20 memo is addressed to Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, and was first reported in yesterday’s editions of the Baltimore Sun, whose website has a link to the eight-page document. Two officials who saw the original memo confirmed its contents to The Associated Press.

“The purpose of this memorandum is to inform you of the Army Reserve’s inability under current policies, procedures and practices … to meet mission requirements associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom,” Helmly wrote, using the military’s names for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“The Army Reserve is additionally in grave danger of being unable to meet other operational requirements,” including those in classified contingency plans for other potential wars or national emergencies, “and is rapidly degenerating into a ‘broken’ force,” Helmly wrote.

The Army Reserve’s ability to regenerate its recently deployed forces is “eroding daily,” he added, in part because Reserve troops who finish tours in Iraq and Afghanistan are required to leave substantial amounts of their equipment for other forces and for contractors.

Helmly also referred to a practice, not previously disclosed, of requiring each Reserve soldier who receives a mobilization order with less than 30 days notice to sign a “volunteer statement.” From his brief description of the practice it appears that this is done to reduce the number of reported cases of short-notice, involuntary mobilizations.

He also criticized the practice of offering Reserve soldiers an extra $1,000 a month if they volunteer to be mobilized a second time. This confuses “volunteers” with “mercenaries,” he said.

Helmly’s blunt description of these problems is the sort of internal attack that rarely becomes public, although some private defense analysts and members of Congress have openly questioned whether the strains on the Army caused by the Iraq war would eventually threaten the all-volunteer force.

Sen. Jack Reed, (D-R.I.), said yesterday he was disturbed by the concerns raised in Helmly’s memo.

 

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