|By Rob McIlvaine, Army News Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Army News Service) — Known as the Continuum of
Service, the Army Reserve wants Soldiers to have the ability to move
between the active and reserve components and civilian service.
The basic concept of Continuum of Service, or COS, said an Army Reserve
senior leader, is to allow Soldiers to move between different statuses
while preserving the Army’s investment in training and education. It
also aims to preserve the Soldiers’ accumulated benefits.
Spc. Shiloh Becher finishes the
night Urban Warfighting Orienteering Course at the Department of
the Army Best Warrior Competition at Fort Lee, Va., in September
2009. Becher was the 2009 Army Reserve Soldier of the Year. A
proposed new concept would allow Soldiers to more easily move
between reserve and active components and civilian service.
(U.S. Army file photo)
“I think this is going to take years” to implement, said Maj. Gen.
Marcia Anderson, deputy chief of the Army Reserve, “because this impacts
(as an example) retirement systems.”
“If you’re moving back and forth from one status to another, that’s
going to impact how people’s retirement is calculated,” Anderson
explained. “It certainly will affect pay, benefits, so all those pieces
are going to need to move, not necessarily in tandem, but we have to
take a look at each of those pieces and reform the system that governs
those, as well.”
The Office of the Secretary of Defense Reserve Affairs has an
implementation plan for COS, but Anderson said there’s no time line yet.
The process needs to be started now though, she said, to take advantage
of the drawdown.
Over the last decade, the Iraq and Afghanistan commitments required the
Army to increase end strength in both the active and reserve components.
Today, the active Army is faced with an end-strength reduction. In years
past when this happened, Anderson said some of the most-seasoned and
best-trained Soldiers left the Army.
The aim of the Army’s COS initiative is to retain this pool of
experienced, talented Soldiers through continued service in the reserve
component. And faced with a period of fiscal austerity, COS will provide
an efficient and cost-effective solution to retaining the investment and
experience of the best Soldiers, she said.
Anderson knows it hasn’t always been easy to transition between the
With more than 30 years of military service, she is the first African
American woman to become a two-star general. Her civilian job is clerk
of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Madison, Wis.
Currently legislation, government policies and regulations all
contribute to the difficulty of moving between different military
components and the civilian sector, Anderson said.
The intent of COS is to give an individual the opportunity to move back
and forth between those different statuses throughout their life and to
make that as seamless as possible, she said.
“For example, say you started your Army career as an enlisted or are
serving as an officer ... you served for four to six years on active
duty and then decided you really wanted to continue your career, but not
on active duty ... you want to go to school,” she said.
The Soldier still has a military service obligation of eight years, with
the next move into the Individual Ready Reserve. At this point, the
former Soldier, no longer on active duty, has the opportunity to either
go to school and pursue that goal, or to start a civilian career.
“Then, say about five or six years later, you decide you’d really like
to participate in a more active way.
“You might join a traditional Reserve unit where you have your weekend a
month and your active-duty-for-training period, or you might say, ‘I’d
really like to go back on active duty,’” she said. “We need to be able
to leverage the skill sets that people bring to the Army Reserve,
whether from their military personnel specialty or from their civilian
“We really need to reform some of those barriers that currently exist,
we need to fix our own regulations that are barriers to that, we need to
look at our legacy systems which in many cases are stovepipes which make
it difficult to move between active and reserve, and whatever
legislation is necessary to allow that to be easier, as well,” Anderson
Reform also involves a culture change.
“We have to have a new way of thinking about this in order to start
moving this forward. We have to kind of get out of our little safe way
that we’ve all grown up with in terms of how we view ourselves and how
we fit in terms of working together and start to look at each other in
more of a cross-cultural way. We’re not doing that right now,” she said.
One thing she’s referring to is the Information Technology piece when
talking about cultural change.
COS also depends on partnering with employers so they can leverage the
skills of Soldiers in the Army Reserve.
The Army Reserve has an employer partnership office, started by its
chief, Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, which has now spread to the other
services. Currently, about 2,400 employers, from Fortune 500 employers
down to city and local organizations, have about 700,000 jobs available.
This is a Web-based initiative where individuals can go in by zip code
and find jobs in their area with employers who are interested and have
agreed to hire veterans and Reserve Soldiers.
“This is a time when we are looking at very constrained resources in the
Army. You’ve all heard about the drawdown, and it’s going to make it
even more important to have access to the special skills that we have in
the Army Reserve,” Anderson said.
“So allowing and creating an environment and a culture that permits a
person to be a Soldier for life is going to be even more important as we
go forward,” she said.