Despite budget pressures, Marine Corps Forces Reserve will continue to offer exciting deployment opportunities, conduct large-scale combined arms exercises and close in on manpower targets as its leaders work to keep reservists busy in a post-war Afghanistan operating environment.
As active-duty forces wound down their combat operations abroad, they took back did claim some missions the Reserve was handling, like missions like Black Sea Rotational Force in Romania. But there are still plenty of gaps at home and abroad where Rreservists are needed, providing ample opportunity to keep them "off the shelf" in the years ahead, said recently departed MARFORRES commander Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, who handed command to Lt. Gen. Rex McMillian in September and retired.
"We fill a unique roll among all rReserve components in the U.S. military," Mills he said. "We are an operational force, not a strategic capability. ...During 14 years of conflict we were very active in Iraq and Afghanistan. We want to continue that same momentum."
That means Marine reservists in 2016 can volunteer to deploy expect to see small deployments on a voluntary basis to Africa, the Middle East and Central Command, Afghanistan, Iraq and Latin America in 2016, Mills said. including Belize as part of security cooperation events, according to Mills.
"We're not going to rip anybody out of their job or home, but we are taking volunteers," he said.
Deployments will include serving as the command element for African Lion 2016, a multi-national exercise conducted with North African allies. Additionally, this October, the Reserve will send 350 Marines from 4th Marine Division and 4th Marine Logistics Group to Trident Juncture, according to Capt. Andrew Chrestman, a Reserve spokesman in New Orleans. It will be the largest NATO exercise in more than a decade.
On the larger end of operations, the Reserve will take over the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force–South mission, currently based out of Honduras of Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize, said Brig. Gen. Eric Smith, the commander of Marine Corps Forces South. That will include about 300 reservists, Chrestman said.
Reservists can also expect to head to Japan, Mills said, as part of the Corps' Unit Deployment Program, which sends Marines to Okinawa on six-month rotations. The Reserve has also offered up units to participate in the Unit Deployment Program which puts Marines on Marine Expeditionary Units in Asia for six-month pumps, Mills said. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 112, based in Fort Worth, Texas, deployed to Okinawa last year with As part of that, VMFA-112 out of Fort Worth, Texas, deployed last year with F/A-18s. By 2017, the Reserve will send up to a battalion-size element to Japan, Mills added, which could include detachments of Marine aviators or maintainers. possibly including deployment in 2017. That could include maintenance and aviation detachments.
Cpl. Colton Derick, a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines, lays down for cover during a simulated enemy explosion. The Reserve unit was conducting an integrated training exercise in California's Mojave Desert.
Photo Credit: Cpl. Ian Ferro/Marine Corps
The Reserve will also continue to conduct its annual, two–week Integrated Training Exercise ITX combined arms exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, which is slated for mid-June despite budget cuts affecting some training programs across the Corps.
"The training money is OK [for the Reserve]," Mills said. "We are able to maintain." Mills said.
On the aviation front, the Virginia-based Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 774, out of Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia, will receive the first of take delivery of its 12 MV-22 Osprey aircraft in January. It will first be redesignated as and after transitioning to the designation Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 774 on Oct. 1, according to Chrestman said. That will give the Reserve two Osprey squadrons with soon-to-be VMM-774 receiving all 12 of its MV-22s by the end of next year. The other, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 764, is based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.
On the manpower front, the Reserve is edging in on its goals not just in end strength, but in having Marines with the right military occupational specialties y in the right billets. It is at about 80 percent "MOS match," with plans to hit 90 percent in the near future, Mills said, putting it ahead of any other component in the Marine Corps of the Corps’.
The Reserve has been able to do that, in part, by offering a number of incentives to entice recruit capitalize on the exit of skilled Marines pushed out of the active-duty off active duty force during the by the manpower drawdown that will trim another 2,000 Marines by the end of 2017 to hit an end-state of 182,000.
"I think what I'm excited about is being able to harvest a lot of the talent that is coming out of the active service," Mills said.
Marines joining the Reserve can expect to continue to see some affiliation bonuses, cutting score bonuses, and travel incentives to cover hat defer costs for those willing to travel to drill, Mills said.