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Reservists play a variety of vital roles

LETTER FROM THE MILITARY

Naval reserve officer Bill Bernsohn has written periodic essays for the Tribune since he was mobilized in January.

Settling into my fourth month away from home, I'm often reminded that, as a reservist, I'm a member of a mongrel breed. Some of my kind are well-trained, mission-oriented specialists. Some are called to active duty after receiving only limited instruction, relying on common sense and instinct to cope with new and unfamiliar jobs and a mind-set that can be light-years away from what they're used to around the office. I'm probably somewhere in between.

Many members of National Guard, Marine and naval reserve units have prior military experience and training, or have been with their reserve outfits for years. I got tagged for my current assignment because I'd been a diving and salvage officer before I became a reporter.

Many reservists are fortunate to be able to pool their skills. Oregon has a large number of reserve units that deploy as a team, whose members prepare year-round to head into harm's way during national emergencies.

These units, whose mission varies from airborne patrols, area security and coastal surveillance to mechanical and logistics support close to combat zones, have high morale and sense of purpose.

But I've also been connected with reserve units that exist in a kind of limbo. Their members spend one weekend a month and two weeks a year ignored by their parent commands, passing their time with make-work projects while their leaders spend hours in group meetings, juggling training statistics to satisfy reserve center commanding officers.

The armed services go to great lengths to prepare reservists deploying to hostile areas or to any type of hazardous duty. But for every reservist who heads to the front lines, there are many, many reserve soldiers, sailors and air crews assigned to routine and unglamorous but necessary duties.

It's amazing to me how well reservists can perform while getting together only 13 times a year. But no amount of training can help most reservists escape the feeling they're stuck at the threshold of an exclusive club they can never really join.

And no indoctrination can prepare the real heroes of a reserve deployment Ñ the deployers' wives or husbands who must suddenly take up double duty as homemakers, providers and parents for the months their loved ones are called away.

Bill Bernsohn has been a reporter for KPAM (860 AM). He was called to active duty in the Pacific in late January.