One Army Reservist Tells It Like It Is

Yesterday we celebrated the 102nd Anniversary of the Army Reserves.  To honor that anniversary, sixty soldiers in the Army Reserve reenlisted at the fifth annual National Capitol Reenlistment Ceremony on Capitol Hill.  Visit the “My Army Reserve” for pictures and a special message from Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, Chief Army Reserve and Commander Army Reserve Command.

But what exactly is life like for the men and women of the Army Reserves?  We asked one Reservist – Ronald Cameau – to shed some light on his experiences…

USO: Army Reserve – it’s probably a term that people hear a lot, but what does it actually mean as far as where and how you serve?
Ronald Cameau: A reservist is a Service Member who serves in a branch of the military in a part-time capacity (minimum one weekend a month, two full weeks a year) or in a time of war (which is when you become “Active Duty”). With regards to location for the Reservist, we are typically assigned to a unit that is within 50 miles from our home.

USO: Why did you join in the first place?
RC: I wanted to join the Army Reserve without having a full-time obligation to the military, to learn IT skills that would help me be successful.  Being a part of the military is a means to make my resume look good, and lastly, patriotism.

Army Reservists Ronald Cameau flies over Camp Bucca, Iraq in 2005.

USO: What’s the toughest part about integrating back into your non-military life?
RC: I have two perspectives of integrating back into civilian life. My 1st deployment was in 2005 and I was single with no child, so my integration back into my full-time “civilian” life was somewhat normal. I guess my only issue was reintegrating with friends and figuring out what the latest style of clothes were.

My second deployment in 2008 I was married and just had a baby. My integration back was somewhat difficult. When I left, my son was 10 months (not talking or walking… and I missed his first birthday). When I get home he’s talking and walking. I had to reintegrate myself into my family who has already had a setup routine without me around. My son also only called me by my first name. This is sometimes the normal way of life for Active Duty military, but it was hard for us.  My wife wasn’t used to being a “military spouse” because my Reserve status kept me living a “regular” life.  But when the deployment came around, it was hard.  Transitioning was difficult.

My normal Reservist schedule is serving one weekend per month, and two weeks during the summer.  Its a really simple schedule. My family is used to it and we plan around it.

USO: What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had as an Army Reservist?
RC: Earning the skills and credentials that I can apply to the civilian world. I also really feel like I’m a productive citizen. The ability to serve my nation in response to the terror attacks of 9/11 (which I was directly affected by because I was in the Pentagon near a window on the side where the plane hit) also meant a lot to me.

USO: Any advice on those who are deciding between the Reserves and the “regular” Army?
RC: Active Duty = regular army. We are both Army…
If you if want to stay a civilian but serve your country I would do the Reserves. If you want travel the world and want to make a career out of the military as a full-time occupation, then do Active Duty.  There are pros and cons to both choices, but it really depends on the type of lifestyle you want for you and your family.

Ronald is the proud husband to USO communications specialist Patrice Cameau.  The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Ronald Cameau nd do not necessarily reflect those of the USO.