The Iraq Shuffle
July 9, 2006: American reserve units are coming home to find that they have practically no vehicles or equipment any more. Most of their stuff is in Iraq or Afghanistan. That's because the reserves are being used in the current war in a fashion that was not anticipated. The U.S. reserves have been called up for active duty more in the past five years than at any time since World War II. But instead of being sent overseas and staying there until the war ended, as was the plan for over half a century, units are going over for 6-12 months, and then coming back for a year or so, before returning to combat. The problem is that, because the reservists are part time soldiers (usually on active duty for less than 30 days a year), and most units do not have a full complement of equipment. There's just enough gear so that everyone gets a chance to train when they are on duty. But with so many reserve units going on active duty, and sent overseas, that's where most of the equipment is. So now reservists at home don't have enough stuff to train with, or use when they are called out for local emergencies.
While reserve units got a lot of additional weapons and equipment when they went overseas, they now have about $1.2 billion worth of stuff (from hummers to night vision scopes) stuck outside the United States. The reserve and National Guard want about $2 billion a year over the next six years to replace worn and lost equipment, as well as the stuff that is overseas, and will probably be given to the Iraqi and Afghan armies. At the moment, the reserves are only getting about $900 million a year to replace lost and destroyed equipment. This is making the situation worse. On the bright side, these equipment problems are just another reason to cut back on reserve call-ups. Fewer reservists going overseas has helped fix recruiting problems caused by the frequent call-ups and overseas deployments. But eventually, the lost equipment will have to be bought, or the reservists won't be able to train, and won't be ready when called up again.