The role played by Reservists has changed greatly in recent years, from a force of mostly prior-service Soldiers who rarely deploy to a highly-trained, agile force who now deploy alongside their active duty counterparts.
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Military Lifestyle

SOLDIERS' STORIES
Reservist Sees Opportunity

Soldiers serving in the Army Reserve long had the stigma of being second-class soldiers. "Be all you can be ... one weekend a month," was a taunt used by drill sergeants for reservist recruits.

The role played by Reservists has changed greatly in recent years, from a force of mostly prior-service Soldiers who rarely deploy to a highly-trained, agile force who now deploy alongside their active duty counterparts. When the Reserve celebrated its hundredth birthday in April, 2008, more than 182,000 Reservists had been called to active duty since 9-11, with more than 41,000 mobilized more than once.

A transformation in the role of the Reserve and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make frequent deployments a reality for these "weekend warriors," and many military reservists are looking at their part-time service more as a second career.

"It's good to have the Reserve as a cushion, a back-up in case something goes wrong. I don't have a 40-hour a week job to go back to," said Sgt.John Coogen of the 445th Civil Affairs Battalion.

After completing an 8-year stint in the Marine Corps, Coogen enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2006. In his civilian career, he is a self-employed audio-visual technician back home in Palm Springs, Calif., mostly installing home theaters.

Though Coogen plans to resume his business when he redeploys in early 2009, he is also hedging his bets. After seeing the kinds of income his civilian counterparts are making in Iraq, he's applying for a job as a contractor, perhaps to return here. Like many of the soldiers in his unit, Coogen has civilian job skills that make him an asset to the Army.

"A Reserve battalion has more skill-sets than an active (duty) battalion. We've got cops, firefighters, veterinarians," said Coogen. Those valuable skills also make soldiers in civil affairs, like in some other Reserve units, more likely to be deployed.

"It's made a tremendous difference, I think, in the lives of reservists as a whole, especially in the civil affairs and (psychological operations) areas," said Maj. David Cothran, operations mobilization officer for Multi-National Corps - Iraq's Army Reserve Affairs office.

"Those guys are deploying, some of them almost every year. Some of them are in the deployment cycle every two or three years, even though the (regeneration cycle) is once every five years for an Army reservist. Those guys are not fitting that cycle. They have to constantly be utilized."

Despite the increasing likelihood and pace of deployments, Cothran said the worsening economy back home is an incentive for many soldiers to stay in the Reserve. Many see the potential for retirement benefits, as well as the New GI Bill.

Building financial security is certainly an incentive for many Reservists, for some, the decision to remain in the Reserve is based more on a sense of duty. Some deployed Reservists don't mind even taking a pay cut to serve their country for a year. And while other Reservists make the same money deployed as in their civilian jobs, many older Reservists continue to see deployment more as an opportunity to serve than a sacrifice.



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