This March, the Navy Reserve celebrated its 101 st birthday. For more than a century, reserve Sailors have defended the nation serving in every crisis from World War I to the War on Terror. The mission of the Navy Reserve is to deliver strategic depth and operational capability to the Navy, Marine Corps, and Joint Force. Since 9/11, more than 70,000 reserve Sailors have mobilized and provided boots on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and other locations not normally associated with a maritime force. Today 2,000 are mobilized. Additionally 12,000 reserve Sailors provide day-to-day support to Navy missions each week around the globe.
Those who served in the reserves in the 80’s and 90’s might not recognize the force today. When I started my reserve career, active Sailors and reservists were seen as being members of separate organizations. Today that could not be further from the truth; the 21 st century Navy consists of active and reserve components that are fully integrated. Our Submarine Force Reserve Component (SFRC) provides a great example of how well our citizen Sailors are supporting the Navy’s mission.
Of the 57,000 Sailors in the Navy Reserve, approximately 1,600 are assigned to SFRC and directly support the Submarine Force. Like the rest of the Navy Reserve, SFRC provides strategic resources that may be needed during a crisis and helps the submarine force successfully accomplish its day-to-day tasks. Each year, SFRC Sailors serve on six of seven continents and in three of four of the world’s oceans.
SFRC Sailors do not normally go to sea aboard U.S. submarines, but support submarine readiness and anti-submarine warfare via five lines of effort (LoEs): Undersea Warfare Operations, Expeditionary Maintenance, Force Protection, Submarine Escape and Rescue and support to the Undersea Warfighting Development Center (UWDC).
Reserve Sailors working in our Undersea Warfare Operations (UWO) LoE conduct ASW and help train the Submarine Force and the fleet. Many stand watch on theater ASW (TASW) watch floors keeping track of undersea activity at four sites around the world. In addition to real world operations, SFRC provides ASW- trained people to a wide variety of training exercises that prepare our fleets for battle. In 2015, SFRC sailors participated in 37 coalition, fleet and group level exercises such as Exercise SHARK HUNT, the certification event for Commander, Task Force 69 (CTF-69) in Naples, Italy. In fact, all of the TASW watches during SHARK HUNT were stood by reserve Sailors!
In addition to watch floor support, the Reserve Component also provides undersea warfare expertise to higher headquarters, to Combatant Commanders and to the fleets for operational planning. It is not uncommon to find reserve officers with more operational planning expertise than the active duty counterparts, gained from their time mobilized or serving overseas and on joint and fleet staffs. In fact, our reserve officers have conducted seminars to train the active component in the art of operational planning.
Because of our depth of expertise, UWO sailors augment destroyer squadron (DESRON) ASW watch floors aboard aircraft carriers during pre deployment workups, both in port and at sea. The reserve team remains available to support the carrier strike group during deployment and can fly to meet the carrier in theater if needed. Last year, SFRC supported two DESRONs, and in 2014, we flew a team to the USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH in the Arabian Gulf in support of Exercise ARABIAN SHARK, a multi- national ASW event.
While reservists don’t go to sea on U.S. submarines, we do go to sea on foreign diesel boats. SFRC junior officers interact with South American navies as part of the Diesel Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI). The DESI program allows our fleet to train and operate against modern, quiet diesel-electric submarines, while providing our partners with a chance to assess their capabilities and training readiness. SFRC officers embark as safety observers. Because they understand depth separation and other safety requirements, the commanding officer of the diesel boat can focus on fighting his ship, thereby improving everyone’s training. This past year, our junior officers provided underway support on six diesel submarines and delivered deployment readiness seminars in Colombia and Chile.
Senior UWO Officers and Chiefs conduct approximately 40 submarine culture workshops (SCWs) each year. The SCW program, run entirely by SFRC, assesses a submarine’s command climate through a series of interviews with a boat’s crew. Feedback to the command triad has been found to reduce accidents and improve safety.
Another major LoE within SFRC is Expeditionary Maintenance (EM). Its 800 Sailors provide maintenance support to the submarine force aboard tenders, on submarines in port, and in shipyards. Last year, reserve Sailors provided over 2,900 days of support to submarine tender Repair Departments. They also provided over 1,300 days of assistance to seven SSGN Consolidated Maintenance Avail abilities (CMAV) (crew exchanges) in Guam, Diego Garcia and Kings Bay.
Our reservists also make items that go on submarines like torpedo room bunk pans, guard shacks and coffee cup holders, known as zarfs. They also fabricate possibly the most important piece of gear on any submarine – the bunk curtain. If you don’t think the bunk curtain is the most important piece of gear on a submarine, you need to deploy once without one. Lastly, our EM sailors augment submarine crews in the shipyard, thereby allowing the submarine’s commanding officer to send some of his crew members to schools or give them leave. Last year, our sailors provided the USS GREENVILLE and USS OLYMPIA with 545 days of support. This program, known as the SSN Sailor Quality of Life Initiative, not only benefits the active duty, it also allows our Sailors to keep their skills sharp.
Another way in which reservists can stand in for active component Sailors is by providing force protection for our ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The Force Protection LoE is small, with just under 200 sailors supporting Submarine Groups 9 and 10. Their mission is to protect SSBNs pierside when they are out of home port. Most of the Sailors assigned to the force protection mission are civilian police officers. When standing guard, they are armed and may be authorized to use deadly force. Last year, our Masters-at-Arms provided 5,812 days of operational support, relieving ship’s crew of this task.
Sailors in SFRC’s fourth LoE, Submarine Escape and Rescue (SER), compose 60 percent of the Navy’s 150 person team at Undersea Rescue Command in San Diego. This is a great mission for a reserve Sailor as the capability is rarely (hopefully never) needed, but can be called upon on short notice. Most SER Sailors have significant Navy diving experience, and they have supported the pressurized rescue module certification for the Submarine Rescue Diving and Re compression System. In addition to being prepared to operate very complex rescue equipment, SFRC’s SER team also supports international exercises, conferences and events that have the potential to boost cooperation. In 2015, our Sailors engaged the Navies of United Kingdom, Australia, Belize, Canada, Germany, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore and Vietnam.
The newest LoE in SFRC is the Undersea Warfighting Development Center (UWDC). UWDC reserve Sailors serve as TASW instructors and assist with certifying and assessing ASW watch teams.
As we begin the Navy Reserve’s second century, SFRC stands ready to provide qualified Sailors who will seamlessly integrate into Submarine Force commands, enhance undersea warfighting capabilities, and ensure our boats are ready for tasking; we are ready to mobilize if needed. SFRC Sailors take great pride in being part of the submarine force and doing vital work for the Navy.