Innovative Training Benefits Troops, Communities
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON -- DoD's Civil-Military Innovative Readiness
Training is a "win-win" proposition for the military and
the American public, according to defense officials here.
Active and reserve component combat support and combat
service support units get hands-on experience performing
mission-essential tasks and local communities get needed
services and support, they said. Military members provide
engineering support for infrastructure projects and provide
medical and dental services.
Title 10 of the U.S. Code, Section 2012, authorizes unit
commanders to work with other federal, state and local
agencies outside the Defense Department, according to Air
Force Col. Diana Fleek, program manager, Office of the
Assistant Defense Secretary for Reserve Affairs. As a
result, the military is learning to form interagency and
"It's an actual win-win situation for everybody," said the
colonel, who gives the program an "A plus" for what it does
for the public and particularly for the military. The
bottom line, she said, is that military skills are enhanced
when they are exercised and military readiness is
strengthened when combat mission capabilities are used.
Service members participated in 178 projects in 39 states
in fiscal 1998 and in more than 200 projects during fiscal
1999. They helped build roads in the northern wilds of
Alaska and drilled wells in southern Texas. They helped
prepare ball field complexes in Alabama and moved
critically needed hay throughout Oklahoma. They provided
medical, dental and veterinary care at remote sites
throughout the country.
"The feedback we get from the combat support and the combat
service support folks who never get to go anywhere is that
this is the best training they've ever had," Fleek said.
The Innovative Readiness Training program, established in
1993, began as part of the Clinton administration's effort
to rebuild America. The Senate Armed Services Committee
echoed the president's support for the program.
"The American people have made an enormous investment in
developing the military's skills, capabilities and
resources," a 1993 Senate committee report stated. "These
resources, if properly matched to local needs and
coordinated with civilian efforts, can be a useful
contribution to addressing the serious domestic needs of
the United States."
The National Guard is involved in the majority of the
program's projects because they do very small projects in
different locations within a state, Fleek noted. "The
reserve and the active forces are actually leading many of
the joint task force projects," she said. The colonel
estimated active duty service members account for about 12
percent of the program participants.
"Units participate in this program because it gives them
another avenue to do readiness training," she said.
"Instead of going overseas, like they do with civil
assistance and humanitarian relief, they stay in the
continental United States and work with the local
Historically, for example, engineering units have done
similar projects in South America and other overseas
locations. Back at home base, however, they may be limited
to such assignments as moving a berm from Point A to Point
B on base, Fleek noted. The Innovative Readiness Program
allows them to train in a real-world, hands-on environment,
"Now they have an opportunity to actually go out to a
community and do road building on Native American
reservations in the Great Plains, or in remote communities
in Alaska or down on the border with the counter-drug
folks," she said. "They're actually doing the road-grading.
They're not just moving earth from one place to another.
They find that extremely rewarding."
The program spotlights the military in the communities from
which the services recruit. As a result, Fleek said, units
benefit from increased retention and recruiting. "That has
then brought the whole thing full circle to become a
benefit to the military," she said.
The program also provides opportunities for joint efforts
that demonstrate the active and reserve components' ability
to work as a total force. "This program is a mirror image
to what's going on overseas with major exercises," she
said. "It's just happening in the United States. It's
actually giving back. We're getting a double bang for the
More units are becoming aware of the opportunities
available through the program. "We're seeing an increase in
the program, which means more units are understanding what
it's about and are taking advantage of interagency
cooperation," Fleek said. "I think the program has shown
that it has the potential to grow."
The current DoD budget allocates $20 million for the
effort; the services also spend training funds. "So we're
actually seeing about a $60 million to $80 million program
that is working for readiness training here in the United
States," she said.
Fleek said she expects to see more partnerships with other
federal and local agencies in the future.
"We're going to see this tremendous onset of benefit to
agencies like Coastal America, which is a DoD environmental
policy program responsible for the entire U.S. coastline,"
she said. "They're very busy with environmental projects,
either rehabbing dams or dealing with environmental issues
on BRAC-closed bases along the coastline."
Administrative initiatives with Native Americans have taken
the forefront this year, Fleek added. "We're finding that
the program is a perfect fit for those type of interagency
infrastructure to underserved communities."
| || Army Reserve landing craft support military
road construction on Annette Island, Alaska, as part of
DoD's Civil-Military Innovative Readiness Training program.
The program authorizes unit commanders to work with
federal, state and local officials on public projects that
enhance military readiness skills. DoD Photo
| || A soldier from the Alaska Army National
Guard's 207th Aviation Battalion prepares posts to be
hoisted by helicopter to a winter dog sled trail being
built near the Bering Strait. DoD Photo
| || Soldiers of C Company, 133rd Engineer
Battalion (Combat Heavy) of Maine's Army National Guard
erect a fence section along the U.S.-Mexican border in
California in support of U.S. Border Patrol operations.
Under DoD's Innovative Readiness Training program, active
and reserve component units from across the United States
receive mission-related training while helping civilian
communities and agencies at the same time. The Mainers'
border missions, for instance, include barrier
emplacements, road improvements, well drilling and earth
moving. Maine Army National Guard Photo
| || Air Force Reserve engineers and residents of
the Navaho reservation in Gallup, N.M.prepare to pour a
house foundation as part of DoD's Civil-Military Innovative
Readiness Training Program. The program authorizes unit
commanders to work with federal, state and local officials
on public projects that enhance military readiness skills.