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Recent conference at Fort McCoy shows Army Reserve Ambassadors' importance to readiness

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MARCOA Media
Story by SFC John Freese on 08/08/2019
FORT MCCOY, Wis. - 88th Readiness Division U.S. Army Reserve Ambassadors from 19 states met on August 3, 2019, to discuss and plan a shift in focus as part of their support to the 88th RD's adjusted mission. It's a way ahead that will take the 88th's USAR Ambassadors into the foreseeable future.

The ambassadors reviewed 88th RD mission changes, legislative processes, and various programs and initiatives the Army Reserve seeks to impart to Army Reserve constituent communities.

The group discussed the needs for a small course adjustment to support Soldiers and their families through this era of the Army Reserve's operational commitments to US security strategy, now broadening to include peer level threats. The adaptation process sheds
light on the invaluable contributions made by the Ambassadors to overall readiness within the Army Reserve community.

"Army Reserve Ambassadors are a vitally important bridge to communities across the nation," 88th RD Ambassador Coordinator, Dr. Katherine M. Bissonette, said.

USAR Ambassadors are key points of influence in two facets of that community: that within the Army Reserve itself, and that within the civilian community from which the Soldier population is drawn and asked to serve in the nation's defense.

While the Army Reserve is a federal force, its contribution to communities at Army Reserve installations large and small is significant and relevant, Bissonette emphasized.

From various programs that assist military families with education costs to innovative readiness training programs that put Army Reserve Soldiers with construction, medical, or civil support skills to work on local community projects and programs, the Army Reserve is vested in, and dependent upon local and state communities. In some communities, the Army Reserve is a key employer. Fort McCoy, for instance, is home to approximately 2500 civilian jobs.

The Army mission is likewise enhanced by the talent pool of Citizen
Soldiers from the USAR whom emerge from these local communities and whom bring to bear their civilian work skills and experience to the national mission both at home and abroad.

Since Army Reserve leaders in uniform rotate out of assignments that link them on a short term basis to prospective communities, it is the
volunteer work of the Army Reserve Ambassador that provides vital continuity over the long term, because they are perpetually invested in the community, Bissonette pointed out.

It is worth noting that they provide this service at no cost.

"Ambassadors are special government employees who represent the Chief of the Army Reserve without salary, wages or related benefits," Bissonette said.

88th RD commanding general, Major General Jody J. Daniels, guided the Ambassadors through the 88th's updated mission to include a refocus of family support programs, such as Strong Bonds, which will now emphasize individual Soldier resilience; and Yellow Ribbon, which will see management held within the USAR's four Readiness Divisions instead of at the Army Reserve Command level.

Among other changes coming in the months ahead are efficiencies to the distribution and number of the 88th's 11 chaplain detachments, and the management, staffing and resourcing of equipment maintenance.

Additionally, in keeping with the Army at large, the 88th will roll out the much anticipated Army Combat Fitness Test, which faces logistical challenges unique to the Army Reserve's widely distributed training sites, Daniels explained to the group.

The meeting gained the interest and participation of the Wisconsin
legislative assembly. State Representative Nancy VanderMeer, district 70, kept the Ambassadors up to date on relevant matters and processes of the state legislature. She also took time to talk with local Ambassadors who had questions and concerns within their respective Army Reserve and Fort McCoy adjacent communities.

Also present were representatives from Army Reserve Communications, Family Programs, and the Minuteman Scholarship and (ROTC) Cadet Command, which offers scholarships of up to $40 thousand per year for tuition, books, and housing for ROTC cadets.

The Ambassadors also took time to step outside and see the Army's latest equipment addition, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, manufactured in Oshkosh, Wis.

With its improvements in protection, performance and payload, the first of the JLTVs meant for use by the Army Reserve are already at Fort McCoy, where operators and mechanics have begun necessary training.

The JLTV will eventually replace the HMMWV, or "Humvee," the light tactical vehicle used throughout the total force since its first fielding in 1985.

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