The Obama administration pledged on Friday to be mindful of the strains it places on the nation's military reservists and their families as the United States increases its force strength in Afghanistan.
The promise came after President Barack Obama announced he would be sending 4,000 more military members to train Afghan security forces, in addition to the 17,000 he ordered to Afghanistan in February.
Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Denis McDonough said military leaders have identified active duty units available to fill the 17,000 combat slots.
But he indicated that the effort to fill the 4,000 training slots was still in process. McDonough added: "While we recognize the guard and reserve are a fundamental component to the total force, we also want to be mindful of the great demands put on the guard and reserve."
The possible new demand comes at a time when Utah National Guard members are enjoying a brief respite from the arduous cycle of deployments that have been a hallmark of reserve service in recent years. Fewer Utah reservists are deployed now than at any time since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
McDonough noted the president intends to send a budget to Congress that includes significant increases in the size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps.
Such increases are likely years off, however, and for the moment the active services are still relying heavily on the reserve.
Notwithstanding the small number of Utah Guard members currently mobilized, the number of reservists on active duty orders nationwide has remained steady.
And Utah Guard officials say they don't expect the recent respite to last long. Several units have been alerted for possible deployment in the next year.
And while only about a third of Utah Guard deployments since 2001 have been in support the fight in Afghanistan, "reading the tea leaves, that's going to go up, of course," said Guard spokesman Hank McIntire. "Pretty much anybody who is leaving is probably going to Afghanistan."
What real changes are in store for the U.S. miliary in Afghanistan as a result of Obama's new strategy? Tribune national security reporter Matthew D. LaPlante breaks it down at www.blogs.sltrib.com/military.