Thank our civilian soldiers

This Thanksgiving, as we gather with family and friends, I would like to take a moment and give thanks to our servicemen and women for their service to our nation. In times of crisis, our dedicated soldiers are always there to answer the call of duty globally or domestically.

In the case of our Army Reserve “citizen soldiers,” they serve the dual role of being military members while working civilian jobs in their communities. The Reserve makes major contributions to Georgia’s economy, community livelihoods and defense.

A recent analysis by the Reserve found our 24 facilities and 7,000 soldiers statewide contribute almost $546 million a year to the state’s economy, supporting 5,500 civilian jobs. That economic impact is matched by the important contributions of our soldiers to Georgia’s communities in their civilian careers.

The Reserve provides the majority of the Army’s civil affairs, logistics, transportation, medical and engineer capabilities — critical military skill sets that are also valuable to communities and workplaces. These skills translate to services in Georgia’s police departments, fire stations, hospitals, schools and key industries.

For example, Reserve soldiers account for 60 percent of the Army’s total soldiers with a medical specialty. Many of these soldiers also serve as EMTs, doctors and nurses in their home communities.

As a soldier in the Reserve, I have had the honor of serving as a judge in the Army Court of Criminal Appeals. As a civilian, I have had the privilege of serving as a Superior Court judge in Fulton County, the busiest trial court in Georgia. My Army Reserve career has been foundational to my approach to justice in our state, just as the training and expertise of my fellow Reserve soldiers help them contribute to Georgia’s businesses and communities every day.

The contributions to Georgia are representative of what the Reserve offers our nation in saving and sustaining lives. When considering the facts, properly funding the Reserve is not just a necessary expense, but a smart investment.

In the past decade, our “reserve” title doesn’t accurately describe the dynamic, efficient and indivisible part we play in our national defense. More than 310,000 Army Reserve soldiers have mobilized and deployed since Sept. 11, 2001, serving with distinction around the world. The East Point-based 335th Theater Signal Command, for example, has the distinction of having served in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than any other command.

Domestically, our ability to support emergency responders and local law enforcement in natural and man-made disasters has been expanded through the Defense Support of Civil Authorities. From providing disaster relief during Hurricane Sandy to combating wildfires on the West Coast, our aviation, search and rescue and medical specialties have been ready for action when needed most.

Even with the expanding roles we’ve taken on in the past decade abroad, the Reserve continues to be an efficient and cost-effective component of our nation’s military. We provide 20 percent of the Army’s total force for less than 6 percent of the Army’s budget and have the lowest amount of headquarters overhead – less than 1 percent.

With these contributions to Georgia and our nation in mind, this holiday season provides a good opportunity to recognize how citizen soldiers serve both in and out of uniform. Equally important, it’s a crucial time to think strategically about how we can continue to provide these immense capabilities locally, nationally and internationally. I hope that you’ll join me in thanking our all soldiers this Thanksgiving by recognizing their immense contributions to our nation.

Ural D. Glanville, a brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserve, lives in Atlanta.

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