Ask U.S. Army reservist Thomas Franklin how he likes working with enlisted soldiers, and he will sigh and say:
"Every once in a while, you hear, `Damn the reservists."'The 24-year-old specialist, attached to the 650th Transportation Corps, went on: "There is a lot of resentment toward reservists, because when this is over, we get to go back home and they have to stay."
Behind the televised portrait of unified troops marching smartly in step in Saudi Arabia, there is friction between American soldiers. It is one of the longest-running conflicts within the U.S. armed forces: the struggle between full-time enlisted soldiers and those in the reserves.
Reservists historically have complained that enlisted soldiers treat them like second-class citizens, "weekend warriors.' Enlisted soldiers charge that reservists do not pull their weight.
The gulf conflict was supposed to have changed all that. The U.S. force took steps to smoothly integrate the largest call-up in decades of reservists with enlisted soldiers under the "total force" plan. But some reservists say things have not changed. They are so angry that they vow to quit when they return home.
"The attitude is, `You are just reserves,"' said an Army sergeant with the 16th Support Group who asked not to be named. "I've got 13 years behind me. What do you have left when you are treated this way?"
The reserves, which include state National Guard units, have long been part of the U.S. military, but have been drafted only as a last resort in war. But the "total force" plan, initiated in the 1970s, calls for reserve units to be incorporated into the full-time Army, Air Force and Navy and deployed along with them when war breaks out.
About 25 percent of the total Army-trained manpower is in the Reserves or the National Guard, according to army officials.
Of the 285,000 Army soldiers in the gulf, 73,000 are reserves and national guard, according to the army. An additional 40,000 reserves have been activated but not deployed, said an Army spokesman in Riyadh, Lt. Col. Chuck Willie.
Reservists fulfill a variety of military roles, from gathering intelligence to fixing tanks to combat. The argument against relying on reservists in war is not that they are not capable, but that they are handicapped by not being part of a military unit from its inception.
U.S. officials in Saudi Arabia, however, say the total force plan has been a success for all branches of the service. Reserve units, they say, have been fully integrated with their enlisted counterparts.