A drastic solution to erase the monicker: “reservist ka lang”

One long-standing source of friction between regular and reserve members of the AFP has been the contentious issue of rank assignment. While the matter has been an often-side-stepped elephant-in-the-room for years, it came to the fore in late 2011, when reservists themselves raised questions in social media about the direct promotion of Congressman Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao from Senior Master Sergeant (a rank he received on May 4, 2009) directly to Lieutenant Colonel. Current regulations apparently allow such things to happen. His meteoric rise in the Non-Commissioned Officers ranks were by virtue of his prowess in the boxing ring, while his promotion to officership was by virtue of Sec. 44 of RA 7077 which states.

SEC. 44. Elected Officials and Presidential Appointees. -Elected officials and presidential appointees may be commissioned in the Reserve Force subject to the existing AFP rules and regulations.

It highlighted the state of affairs with regard to rank assignment in the reserves. Reservists, who had been faithfully serving in the reserves for years without a defined path to promotion, lamented the ease with which command privilege could be used to hand out ranks. If reservists can find fault, one can only imagine how professional soldiers feel about this, and how it affects their attitudes toward the force as a whole.

This article postulates that rank assignment procedures plays a part in fostering the prevailing AFP attitudes towards the reserve force as a whole. It also offers a drastic solution that may give reserve force offers a clear cut way to earn their ranks in a manner that is beyond reproach. This was first posted by the author on Timawa.net on March 26, 2011.

Background

By the time a regular officer reaches the rank of Major, he/she is expected to have already achieved a certain level of command experience and required schooling. Whereas the advance to Captain is often regarded as being almost automatic, earning a “sun” is where officers really have to work at it. A fair number of military careers actually end at the rank of Captain, when promotions to the next rank either become unlikely or do not occur in a timely manner.

The same is true of regular Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO). One does not become a staff sergeant without having put in one’s share of time in the field, and/or field of specialization. NCOs are regarded as the backbone of the AFP, specifically because they are the epitome of “been-there-done-that”.

In the reserves, on the other hand, such ranks are often assigned with no regard to a reservist’s combat record or comparable performance metric. Perusal of reservist rosters will reveal scores of Majors and above, and supposed senior NCOs, who have neither been under fire, nor experienced in managing real-life crisis/emergencies, and are therefore unexposed to the challenges their equivalents in the regular force are already expected to have experienced. Prevailing regulations even allow the automatic assignment of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel from the outset, without requiring the recipient to have experienced the four preceding levels.

A fair number of reservists on the Timawa.net forum have lamented disparaging comments from regulars about being told “reservist ka lang”. One reservist in particular brought up the issue that this disrespect of reservist ranks runs contrary to regulations pertaining to military courtesy and discipline.

On paper, the complaint is valid. An officer, right or wrong, is accorded a level of respect by military regulations. All those below his rank, are expected to extend the appropriate courtesy. But given the general prevailing rank-assignment policies in the reserves, strict enforcement of such regulations is a slap-in-the-face for career military men who attain their ranks through blood, sweat, and tears.

If regular officers/soldiers look down upon their peers who spend more time in headquarters than in the field,what attitude would you expect from them when faced with reservist officers whose boots had never tasted mud?

The disconnect between ranks and actual qualifications needs to be addressed. If reservist ranks are to be respected — both on paper and in practice — the reserves must shed the perception that it is populated with unqualified officers.

Proposals

1. Re-establish the rank of Third Lieutenant, and creation of an enlisted rank tentatively called “Kawal”

2. Establish a point system to qualify for promotions

3. Set maximum ranks for reservists

4. Match promotion requirements in the reserves with those of the regulars, an ensure reservist access to these trainings

Each is explained in the “Details” section.

Desired outcome

1. Eliminate the rank-skill-set mismatch in the reserves

2. Create incentives for participation in unit activities and for participation in the technical service

3. Encourage the entry of retired AFP personnel in the reserves

Details

Re-establish the rank of Third Lieutenant and establish the rank “Kawal”

“Third Lieutenant” would be the starting point for all reserve officers, putting them below 2nd Lieutenants.

Adding this layer gives the reserve force rank structure room for upward mobility, while avoiding questions about qualifications, particularly when comparing entry level reservist officers with graduates of regular-officer training programs (e.g., OCS, PMA, PAFROPP, PAFFS, etc.). Third Lieutenant is the rank that Marcos started with. If was good a enough starting point for the strongman, it should be good enough for everyone else. From the strongman’s MOV writeup: http://www.army.mil.ph/VALOR_AWARDEE/marcos.html

2. MAJ FERDINAND E. MARCOS

. . . Then 3rd Lieutenant Marcos led a hastly organized company-sized blocking force from remnants of 4 units. The defensive action against 2,000 highly-trained and well-equipped men prevented the possible decimination of the withdrawing USAFFE Troops and delayed the inevitable Fall of Bataan.

Advancement to 2nd Lieutenant would be contingent on a reservist officer’s demonstration of the skills that are expected of a regular 2nd Lieutenant.

To implement this, the AFP Reserve Command would have to draft a list skill-sets that a reservist officer would need to have to match their peers, thus giving officers a proper, clear-cut, path to advancement. Members of the Technical Services, who acquire their advanced ranks by virtue of their degree and direct, full-time, service to the AFP would naturally be exempted from this process.

“Kawal” would be a new rank, one grade below Private, and would form the first rank assigned to reservists immediately after completion of training. Reservists should be encouraged to move beyond this rank by matching minimum physical fitness, marksmanship, and other standards that all Privates/Seamen/Airmen are expected to meet. As with officer requirements, the AFP Reserve Command must draft a proper skills requirements so that reservists are given a fair chance at advancement.

A Private in the reserves must possess the exact same skills that a Private in the regular force. Until that is demonstrated, a reservist is “Kawal”.

 

Point-system to qualify for promotions

To qualify for promotion in a particular year, reservists must earn qualfication points by performing functions such as the following (Let us temporarily set aside discussion about how many points are assigned per activity):

– Active membership in the Ready Reserves with corresponding participation in unit activities
– Service as assistant military instructors in ROTC units
– Participation in mobilization, both actual and simulated
– Performance of public service functions (e.g. law enforcement, etc.)

The point system should be designed to attract individuals with skills that are useful in a crisis (e.g., paramedics, firemen, safety officers, security officers, Red Cross volunteers) or possession special qualifications (e.g., marine engineers, ship captains, etc.)  to join the reserves since the regular performance of their jobs — by itself — already gives them a leg up. It would also mean that, for example, an accountant or a clerk whose day-to-day activities do not promote maintenance of relevant skills must take it upon himself to get involved in additional activities that put him in the running for advancement.

Failure to respond to mobilization calls will result in deduction of points from points already accrued. Point deficits will be recorded and carried over year-after-year, and can only be extinguished by continued accumulation of points or with active military service (this includes techncal services).

Another consequence of this system is that it rightfully slows down promotions in the StandBy Reserves, thus creating an incentive to join the Ready Reserves.

 

Set maximum ranks for reservists

This proposal is central to addressing the rank-qualification issue.

Reservists who have not rendered at least two years of active military service (to include the Technical Services and the CAFGU) will not be allowed to possess ranks above Captain. The practice, therefore, of assigning Lieutenant Colonel ranks to graduates of the Masters in National Security Administration would need to be discontinued.

Rank caps would be as follows:

-> Captain for officers
-> Sergeant for enlistedmen

That means whenever you see a Major in the reserves . . . this is a person who REALLY knows the functions that Majors are expected to be able to perform.

Understandably . . . this would create situations where Captains command reserve divisions.

 

Match promotion requirement in the reserves with those in the regular force

Any reservist seeking ranks beyond captain must satisfy the same promotion experience requirements that a regular captain would.

This would virtually eliminate lingering doubts about the skill-sets of mid-level officers in the reserve force. One of the underlying sources of . . . separation . . . therefore, would be eliminated.

This equal-opportunity policy, however, would require the AFP to take steps to accommodate reservists in their training programs, and fully implement the following provisions of RA 7077:

http://adroth.ph/reservist/law/7077/art9.htm

SEC. 51. Training of Individual Reservists and Reserve Units. – Maximum opportunity shall be afforded the reservists to update their skills through compulsory or voluntary training. Such training shall have for its principal purpose the enhancement of the readiness of the individual reservists and reserve units to respond to the call to service. To this end, there shall be two (2) types of training:

(1) Compulsory training of not less than thirty (30) days but not more than sixty (60) days for reserve units and/or individual reservists in a given year preferably to First Category Reservists; and

(2) Voluntary training subject to the capability of the AFP to provide the training. Individual reservists, commissioned and noncommissioned officers shall be encouraged to undergo training on a voluntary basis to upgrade their proficiency with priority to the officers and key noncommissioned officers of the Standby Reserve units. The Secretary of National Defense shall prescribe the course of instruction for the aofrementioned training. The services of qualified individual enlisted and officer reservists shall be utilized to the maximum in the conduct of ROTC and reservists’ training.

As a consequence of such a drastic increase in requirements, the following adjustments would arguably have to be implemented. Barriers to reservist participation in these courses must be eliminated.

-> Key advanced officer courses must have slots specifically for reservists that seek further military schooling. An LTC in the reserves who doesn’t have a GSC, for example, must be given a chance to earn it.

-> Certain basic combat courses should also be opened to reservists

-> Military Occupation Specialties (MOS), other than Infantry, must be made available

-> State colleges and universities must make their athletic facilities available to any reservist that seeks to use them to prepare for Physical Fitness tests. Singapore, for example, does this because it regularly tests the physical fitness of their reserve force.

-> Police and AFP firing ranges must be open to reservists and possess a minimum amount of ammunition for marksmanship practice for reservists. Reservists must be both taught how to shoot, and allowed to remain proficient.

If the AFP is serious about maintaining a competent reserve force, then it must provide training for both the reservists themselves, and for the regulars who may lead and look after their welfare in a crisis.

Transition

Implementation of a change this drastic will undoubtably ruffle feathers. So a transition plan must be put in place, for example 5 years from the time of implementation, to give reserve units a chance to disseminate the relevant information, and to give reservists a chance to make the relevant adjustments.

All existing reservists ought to be given the right retain their current ranks. It isn’t their fault that the reservist system they walked into was flawed, and therefore, should not be penalized for it. However, they must be subject to qualification tests and peer reviews to determine their suitability for the positions they hold. Failure to do so within a prescribed amount of time (for example the 5 years stated above) could, for example,  result in automatic demotion by one rank per year of avoidance. This should bring most people to within the prescribed rank-range.

Ultimately, the goal of this proposal is to assure all parties concerned that a reservist, at any rank, is at par with his/her contemporaries in the regular force — in all aspects. Not only does this relegate the “reservist ka lang” phrase to the vocabulary of the close-minded who cling to pre-conceived notions without the benefit of fact-checks, but also guarantees that the Filipino people get the reserve force that they both need . . . and deserve.