- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2001

As we look back on Armed Forces Day and celebrate Memorial Day, I am privileged to pay special tribute to the men and women of the reserves, the citizen-soldiers who are an essential component of our national defense strategy.
I was Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) when the Unites States first committed its forces to Bosnia in 1995. As the SACEUR, I observed daily the extraordinary dedication and professionalism of the men and women of the reserves as they became an indispensable part of our Balkans forces. Without the reserves, including the more than 14,000 members of the Army Reserve who have deployed in support of operations in the Balkans, we could not have executed this peacekeeping mission. As one Army Reserve officer recently said of her time in Bosnia, "If the reserves were not here, there would be no peace. Because we are here, they can start getting back to some type of normal life."
In fact, our nations armed forces could not execute any mission without calling on our citizen-soldiers. That is exactly as it should be. The Total Force Policy crafted by Gen. Creighton Abrams ensures that the United States can never fight a war like Vietnam again without calling upon America through her citizen-soldiers. If we commit our reserves, it is much easier to engage the support of the people, because their doctor, plumber, mechanic or school principal is deployed to the theater.
Today, less than 6 percent of all Americans are veterans. Citizen-soldiers who operate in both the civilian and military communities are the critical link between a military and civilian society that often no longer understand each other.
The reserves are a unique force multiplier precisely because they bring their civilian skills to the warfight. The skills they acquire in their civilian jobs often cannot be matched in the active component of the military. Accordingly, those missions that require skills best honed in the civilian sector are appropriately given to the reserves. In the Balkans, for example, the Army Reserve provided a myriad of capabilities, including civil affairs, psychological operations, public affairs, medical, engineering and logistics skills enhanced daily in their civilian lives.
Based upon my NATO experience, I saw another key contribution of the National Guard and reserves. Many of the emerging democracies in Eastern Europe do not have experience with a force of citizen-soldiers imbued with the belief that the democratically elected civilian leadership is in charge of the armed forces. There are no better teachers of this tradition than our reserves and National Guard.
Our armed forces have many critical needs. We clearly must transform to meet the new threats of terrorism, asymmetric warfare and weapons of mass destruction. Our armed forces must make maximum use of information technology and ensure dominance of the space medium of warfare. The Army is on an exciting transformation path to create forces that are simultaneously more lethal and more mobile.
Doing all this will be expensive, and the Bush administration will face many tough choices in determining how to pay for all of it. One choice the administration cannot make is cutting the reserves to free up extra funds for a new defense vision. It would be penny wise and pound foolish to make our citizen-soldiers a billpayer for the changes needed for a 21st century military, to sever this tie between the military and the civilian community, and to decrease this reliable and extremely cost-effective deterrence to aggression.
The American public understands this. In a recently released national poll, more than 80 percent of the American public recognized the reserves play a "very significant" role in national defense. Fully 63 percent of Americans oppose reducing the size of the reserves to pay for new weapons systems. As they always do, the American people have got it right.
Our citizen-soldiers, airmen, Marines, seamen and Coast Guardsmen are essential to the armed forces and to the nation. As we honor all our service members, please remember those of your friends or neighbors who serve in the reserves. In so many ways, they are the backbone of our nations defense.

Gen. George A. Joulwan served as the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe from 1993-1997, and was the Commander-in-Chief, Southern Command, from 1992-1993.

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