107 Years of Citizen Soldiers
Celebrating the U.S. Army Reserves
April 23, 2015 by Mark Dye
The history of citizen soldiers goes back centuries, but in the United States it predates the nation itself—they were fighting in the French-Indian wars in the mid 18th century, decades before the Constitution. But it wasn’t until the early 20th century that the reserve force became official, first with the Medical Reserve Corps, and now with a well-trained and ready-to-serve force serving throughout the globe.
Only a few years passed between the creating of the Medical Reserve and the start of World War I. All told, the Army mobilized nearly 90,000 Reserve officers—one-third of which were medical doctors—and more than 80,000 reserve Soldiers. These numbers helped to achieve victory, and those serving the medical corps were able to save wounded military members at far greater numbers than in any prior conflict.
During the period between WWI and WWII, the War Department (as it was then called) had planned to have 33 divisions of reserve forces at the ready. When WWII broke out, these individuals served in all areas and theaters and with great distinction. Their ability to bolster the main force was a key in the successful war effort. (As an example, there were 3,000 reserve officers on active duty before the war; that number grew to more than 57,000 during it. And that was just officers! Tens of thousands of junior enlisted and other personnel also served.)
The Korean war saw more than a quarter of a million reservists called to active duty, with many of them again in the medical sector. It was also during this time that the Department of Defense restructured the reserves, changing it from the Organized Reserve Corps into the United States Army Reserve (USAR) and dividing it into three distinct areas: Ready Reserve, Standby Reserve, and Retired Reserve.
Unlike in previous conflicts, the 1960s actually saw a reduction in the number of reserve forces used in combat areas. In fact, while the Vietnam War dominated the decade, only 6,000 reservists were activated for support. The Berlin Crisis (1961-1962) actually saw more, with more than 68,500 Army Reserve Soldiers being mobilized.
Without any major conflicts, reserve units focused on training and getting ready to respond when needed.
With the Cold War at an end, the focus of the American became on global peacekeeping, but with a reduced budget and fewer personnel in the active force. From this came the “Operational Reserve” concept—the Army Reserve was to be manned, equipped, and trained at levels on par with the active Army. Then, in 1993, the “Offsite Agreement” restructured the Army’s reserve components yet again so that the National Guard would specialize in combat arms and divisional level combat support and service support, while the Army Reserve would focus on combat support and service support at corps levels and above.
The global war on terrorism changed the way reservists looked upon their service, going from a “could be called to active duty” mindset to a “will probably be called to active duty” one. In all, more than 200,000 reservists have been called to active duty since 9/11 and have served in all combat theaters and in all capacities at an incredibly high level.
Citizen Soldiers will continue to be instrumental parts of our military structure and be considered “twice the citizen and Army strong!”