99 Years of Being “Ready Now. Anytime, Anywhere!”
Celebrating Almost a Century of ‘Citizen Sailors’ Service
March 3, 2014 by David Khan
During the American Revolution, a group of citizens from Maine commandeered a ship in order to go after a British warship. Throughout that war and other conflicts—including the War of 1812 and the Civil War—citizen sailors helped the cause, raiding ships and defending harbors and coasts. So, technically, Citizen Sailors have always been a fixture of American military history.
But it wasn’t until March 1915, that the U.S. Congress, seeing the need for an official, federalized naval reserve militia, signed into law the Naval Appropriations Act, thus creating the United States Navy Reserve. It was to supplement active-duty Navy forces during World War I, as well as hunt for enemy U-boats. Eventually the scope of the organization expanded to include training programs like the Naval Aviation Cadet program and Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps.
The Great Depression was a challenging time for the reserves, but by the time World War II was on the horizon in the summer of 1941, the Navy Reserve force was again ready to meet the call, as almost all of its members were already on active duty. In fact, it was Navy reservists aboard the USS Ward who sunk a Japanese mini-sub outside of Pearl Harbor and, thus, fired the first American shots of the war. There were even five future presidents who had Navy Reserve commissions and served during WWII: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush.
After WWII, the Navy Reserve saw several massive mobilizations of “Weekend Warriors” to help fight, with the first being the build up for the Korean War. Large compliments of ships’ crews were reservists, and carrier air wings were made up almost exclusively of reserve squadrons. Navy Reservists saw similar types of action during the Vietnam War as well as Operation Desert Storm.
It was up until Desert Storm that the Navy Reserve had been viewed as a large force ready to be mobilized to supplement active-duty forces. Since the late 1990s, however, it has taken on a slightly different role, serving as an integral and vital component necessary to carry out the Navy’s mission. There are now certain missions—such as aviation logistic support, helicopter combat support, and others—that are specifically reserve-component jobs not carried out by the active force.
Since the attacks on September 11, more than 70,000 Sailors have been mobilized to provide both ready units and to augment both Naval and Joint Force efforts in combat operations around the world. They also carry out a large number of humanitarian and disaster relief missions here at home and abroad.
Over its 99 years of illustrious service, the Navy Reserve continues to reaffirm its commitment to being “Ready Now, Anywhere!” as a relevant part to the Navy’s mission. To be ready to serve when called and do so aligned the Navy’s Core Values of Honor, Courage and Commitment.
So to the 64,000-plus Full-Time Support and Selected Reservists around the world, we say “Happy anniversary!” and “Thank you!”