By Michael M. Novogradac
First Army Division West public affairs
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - While preparing them for battle, First Army Division West trainers get a chance to see some of the unique struggles Reserve Component soldiers face when they deploy.
Before reporting to his current assignment, Lt. Col. Steven Rosson saw his fair share of duty in combat zones as an active duty soldier, serving first as a brigade intelligence officer with the 3rd Infantry Division during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 and then from 2004 to 2006 with back-to-back 3rd Infantry Division assignments as a brigade intelligence officer and the special troops battalion executive officer.
In his current position as Division West's director of intelligence, Rosson took the lead for planning and executing the military intelligence training of the Nebraska Army National Guard's 67th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade from Omaha during the unit's culminating training event.
"Before coming to this job I would have never had full knowledge of how difficult it is to be a Reserve Component soldier, especially in a mobilization process like this," Rosson said.
"Their families are taken care of not unlike an active duty unit," he said.
"The unit established family readiness groups, just like active duty units.
They have a structure for their families, so when they are activated on a federal status, they have the same systems."
Noticing that the 67th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade did things like publish a family newsletter, and hearing that the brigade commander visited all his units and conducted town hall meetings with the families, Rosson saw firsthand how well his Reserve brethren prepared for deployment.
"They are well-armed with information, and they have a clear understanding of how well (soldiers) are trained and prepped," he said. "And with a good information flow back and forth, I'm confident their families are taken care of."
Rosson said the 67th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade also had a "Boss Lift" in which employers from Nebraska and other states went to Washington to see their soldiers, to meet the unit commander and to see the training soldiers go through. Boss Lifts essentially educate employers about the importance of what soldiers do.
"I've learned it is a very difficult process to be a Guard or Reserve soldier," Rosson said. "Much of this pre-mobilization training takes them away - sometimes for weeks and weeks at a time - and then they return to their jobs for a few weeks, and then they have even more training.
"It is a very difficult thing for their families to manage and for employers to manage, so it's important that the employers get to come out here and see firsthand what their (soldiers) do and how important a mission it truly is."
Soldiers gain the understanding that employers make a commitment to national security by hiring employees who also serve in the Guard or Reserve.
"They are going to lose these soldiers for a little over a year and then they're going to return back to their civilian employment," Rosson said.
"That is a strong commitment for employers to make, and it is very important that we have the support of the employers for the benefit of the soldiers.
"If not, it puts the soldiers in a precarious position of trying to balance their civilian employment and also worry about their mission."
Since the beginning of the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, nearly 700,000 Reserve Component soldiers have been mobilized, at a rate of about 75,000 per year.
Working closely with the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, Division West has trained more than 1,500 units and more than 85,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines since October 2007.