The Baltimore Sun published an article on June 6 about Special Operations Detachment-OTAN (SOD-O—read the article for more information on what that is), which is a Maryland Army National Guard unit. Towards the end of the article the author included the following two paragraphs.
As National Guardsmen, the soldiers bring expertise from full-time careers at the National Security Agency, the FBI and defense contractors. Olsh said officials at NATO have been particularly interested in that civilian experience.
“They weren’t really interested in what our people did ... on the Army side because they can get that from the Army,” he said. “They wanted to know what their civilian background was.”
And last December, Texas Monthly published an article on Special Operations Detachment-Africa (SOD-A), which is an Army National Guard unit based in Texas. That article included the following two paragraphs.
There are several hundred Special Forces operators participating in Flintlock, but what makes Doug’s men different from the others is that they are all in the Texas National Guard. Doug, when he is not fighting terrorism, has a law practice in Austin. Tim is a police pilot for the Texas Department of Public Safety. He spends his days interdicting drug smugglers, conducting manhunts or search and rescue operations.
Most of the other soldiers in SOD-A have full-time jobs in fields ranging from oil-field services to high tech to medicine. There are some who work for the FBI, and there are some who work in intelligence; in fact, there are plenty of people in SOD-A who work for Uncle Sam but whose day jobs cannot be mentioned at all—their work as Green Berets is the least secret thing about their lives.
These articles might make it seem like only National Guard Special Forces units have valuable civilian skills that enhance their desirability as troops. But that’s not the case. It holds true with all reserve component units. Units with troops who are engineers, heavy construction equipment operators, corporate managers, insurance salesmen, tech nerds, and so forth all possess valuable civilian skills.
Nor are the civilian intelligence and national security skills mentioned in the above stories limited to National Guard Special Forces units. Other units—units that rarely, if ever, make the news—have them as well.
Even after 15 years of war, there are still people (civilian and military) who think Reserve and National Guard troops aren’t real troops or somehow are less useful. And that’s fine. But the reality is, the reserve components are vital to the modern armed forces, and they bring many unique skills to the fight through their civilian jobs; important skills the U.S. armed forces otherwise wouldn’t have.