WASHINGTON — Lt. Gen. Jody Daniels remains worried about her people.
The Army Reserve’s top general, whose “readiness over metrics” mantra aims to make part-time service more soldier-focused and less administratively burdensome, claimed “good progress” in some areas of her initiative in an exclusive Oct. 11 interview with Army Times. But she freely conceded that some problems facing the Army’s smallest component still keep her up at night.
Daniels, who holds a doctorate in computer science, said she ordered the Reserve’s inspector general to investigate whether the components’ headquarters — from her staff all the way down to the company level — are putting out too many short-notice tasks that overburden leaders. The inspection began after a Feb. 17 Army Times feature that detailed the burden of part-time command for Reserve officers, and Daniels said its results should arrive in the next 30 to 45 days.
She says she is concerned that taskers may be overwhelmingly falling to the company level for execution, where thinly spread full-time staff members known as Army Reserve administrators are “trying their darnedest” to keep up in the face of relatively low wages. And when part-time leaders are evaluated based on their unit’s administrative wherewithal, excess work often ends up on their plates — and often without pay, officers who spoke with Army Times in February said.
“How many taskers are coming out from the different staffs that the leaders may not know about?” Daniels asked. “Myself included. My staff is probably putting out stuff that I don’t realize that they’re putting out, and they’re tasking subordinates to do things that I may not realize they’re tasking.”
Daniels noted that the IG is also evaluating whether headquarters are giving sufficient time and reasonable prioritization guidance along with the work, as well as “not putting them out at [5 p.m.] on a Friday afternoon.”
The Reserve chief celebrated improvement in the amount of drill weekend time spent actually training. She emphasized pushing units toward “tough, realistic training done safely” in the wake of a 2022 inspector general inspection that found many Reserve units barely spent any time training due to administrative requirements.
In her eyes, “giving soldiers something interesting, relevant, meaningful, cool, fascinating, [or] exciting to go do” will increase enlisted retention and boost recruiting numbers that have lagged for several years. The component “had the highest retention we’ve had in quite some time” in fiscal year 2023, she said.
One of Daniels’ new focuses is speeding up and streamlining promotion processes. She said the component has successfully sped up captain promotions by reducing the required time-in-grade for first lieutenants to advance.
Mid-grade noncommissioned officer promotions have posed another challenge.
“We found that over the last three years, the Army Reserve has gotten slower in promoting specialists to sergeant by one month each year,” she explained. Setting a quantitative goal for sergeant promotions didn’t fix the problem. Now her tagline is “E5 in five…by the time you get to five years, you should be a sergeant.”
Daniels emphasized that her units need to do a better job of holding regular promotion boards and sending their eligible specialists to required military education courses based on their leadership potential rather than whether that soldier is ready to be an NCO immediately.
“I want to reward potential,” she said. “Every other board that meets out at [Human Resources Command] or wherever, it’s about potential. Why are we not doing that for our specialists?”
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army. He focuses on investigations, personnel concerns and military justice. Davis, also a Guard veteran, was a finalist in the 2023 Livingston Awards for his work with The Texas Tribune investigating the National Guard’s border missions. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill.