Guest of the Month - Major
General Rob Ostenberg, U.S. Army Reserve
Ostenberg, a Major General (2 Star), is the Commanding
General for the 63rd Regional Readiness Command of
the U.S. Army Reserve. He is also an Advanced Field
Underwriting Consultant for Financial and Estate Planning
with a major financial firm. During our interview,
he explains his involvement in the War on Terrorism
and the U.S. influence in Iraq, describes how the
U.S. Army Reserve supports our country and how combat
has changed, discusses what values he believes are
important in today's world, shares how he prays for
the world, and provides inspiration for all of us.
How much of a career is your Army command?
Well, recently, it seems like my full-time career.
This past year, I had 240 days of active duty.
What do you do on active duty?
The Army is at war, and while I have to concentrate
most of my activities on the readiness of my 144 units
and 12,000 soldiers for deployment in support of the
Combatant Commands, I also have to concentrate on
the transformation of the force -- the upgrading of
facilities and equipment. We cannot hang out a sign
that reads: CLOSED for REMODELING. In the past 30
days, I've deployed five units to Iraq and Kuwait.
I've also welcomed back a major Military Police company
that was extended beyond one year in Iraq. I have
another Port Operations company of 270 soldiers returning
this week, who were also extended and served almost
22 months. I spent a week at Ft. Lewis, WA, visiting
units and meeting with other Generals to discuss training
and retention issues. I have a Heavy Boat Company
at Mare Island, CA, to inspect a new maintenance facility
and a state of the art, "best in the US"
Bridge Simulator, which will be used by our vessel
masters to practice boat and docking operations at
ports around the world in a virtual reality setting.
These facilities are due to be operational this December.
I've worked with employers who have employees that
are members of the National Guard or the Army Reserve.
I've met with other general officers and Lt. Gen.
Robert Clark, the 5th US Army Commander, to discuss
how we in California can work together to better train
soldiers. I've spoken to company commanders attending
a team leadership course. I've updated and informed
elected officials of any information they may need
What command responsibilities do you have?
I command the 63d Regional Readiness Command, which
is comprised of 12,000 soldiers in nine major subordinate
commands, located in 48 facilities in Arizona, California
and Nevada. Subordinate units are comprised of 144
deployable units and 12 maintenance and supply activities.
I oversee the base operation services for the subordinate
commands and for all other U.S. Army Reserve commands
in the region. I administer a budget of $80,000 and
manage over 1,000 full-time staff members. I am responsible
for all aspects of command with emphasis on providing
trained and ready units and soldiers capable of deploying
whenever and wherever to support the Combatant Commander's
What are some of the duties of the Reserves?
Regional Readiness provides service support and logistics
for the Army -- military police, aviators, transportation
truck drivers, often transporting ammunition and fuel
ahead of the combat lines so when they get there,
they have what they need. One of the companies under
my command purifies the water for drinking and gets
it to specific locations. We also support the Marines.
We worked together with Iraqis to set up a prison
system in Mosul. The first Reservist who was killed
was a medic. We are in ten countries doing different
Have you gone over to Iraq?
In the past two years, I have been to Iraq, Kuwait,
Afghanistan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan. I have had very
harmonious visits so far. We have been fired on in
aircraft but to no avail. I have trusted in the protection
of God and have not limited my activities beyond what
wisdom has dictated. I have felt very safe for the
most part. I head back to Iraq and Kuwait in mid-September.
I will be out with my soldiers wherever they are working,
and I will sleep in tents or in the same accommodations
as my lower enlisted. They know me well enough to
expect my desire to be with them where possible. I
won't have my Aide, etc., with me, just the armed
escort that is required. In addition, my Military
Intelligence soldiers are in Guantanamo, Cuba, and
I have been there to view their intelligence gathering
and analysis of satellite imagery.
What are your responsibilities when you go over
to the war zones?
When I go over, I check on my own soldiers, but I
am also being sent by my boss, Lt. General James R.
Helmly (a 3 Star General), to check out a number of
U.S. Army Reserve units in other commands to see what
they are doing and what their challenges are in an
effort to improve deficiencies or change systems to
better support them. Last time, I saw about 18,000
troops and 60 different organizations. Our men and
women are spread all over the map, and when I visit,
the soldiers protecting me have a tough job and are
put in harm's way. However, I feel that I need to
make the effort to touch as many units and soldiers
as I can and live in their environment while I visit
to better understand their issues -- like having the
proper equipment, getting promoted on time, or learning
of family problems so my staff can help those at home.
Why were you selected to do the inspections?
Because of my background and expertise in the area.
I've learned by studying and going over there. I've
been involved from the get-go. I've had soldiers there
since October of 2001, and have been through all the
What has been the influence of the U.S. Army in
I believe the Army has been a great contributor to
the improvement in the quality of life in both Iraq
and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, there will be elections
in a few months. Of the registered voters, 40% are
women, and women also make up over 50% of the student
body in a college for teachers I visited near Bagram.
Last year we had finished over 600 water wells, and
villages were getting clean water for the first time
in several decades. In addition, many schools have
been built or re-built. In Iraq, for the past 30 years,
the majority of the 20 million people there only received
news that the former government approved. When we
entered Baghdad, Saddam had the people convinced that
we weren't there, until they saw us. Now, Iraq has
included the 100,000 Jews that live there. The Jews
can now close shops on Saturday, when before they
were forced to keep them open, even though Saturday
is their Sabbath. No one had cell phones or satellite
dishes. Today, cell phones and satellite disks abound.
The vast majority of people there are grateful for
the change in government; it's the small minority
who are making problems. We are not occupationalists;
we will leave when Iraq gets on its feet. Following
World War II, we were in Germany for seven years,
and they were shooting at us. All the reports back
then said that the peace would fail. When the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked and Americans
were killed, the terrorists brought the war to us,
and they will continue to do so until we stop them
and destroy their resources. The enemy is different
today from any other time. In the past century, wars
were fought between countries or nations. To defeat
the enemy, you conquered their country. The terrorist
organizations today do not have a country, but are
spread around the globe. They operate in cells and
communicate by the internet and electronic means.
They have great financial resources and have proven
to be lethal and evasive as they attack targets around
the world. They are also prepared and willing to die.
Our influence has been positive. I don't want to lose
another soldier, but loss is not new to us as we have
had to deal with conflict throughout our history.
Do you find satisfaction in what you are doing?
The answer is yes, because the young men and women
I work with are phenomenal. Last year we got a call
that we didn't have enough MPs. In July of last year,
I received an order to activate a company of 124 MPs
one year ahead of schedule and have them ready to
deploy in April, 2004. We had only nine months to
identify and train the soldiers. If a new recruit
wanted to be in the company, it would take five months
just to train in the required skills. I thought there
was no way to succeed given the limited time frame.
However, when the word got out, we had soldiers that
were already serving in other specialties who wanted
to re-train as MPs. On April 1, there were over 160
soldiers assigned who came from the Individual Retired
Reserve, the National Guard, and from my own commands
-- truck drivers, cooks, mechanics and logisticians.
They flocked to this company because they wanted to
deploy. That's incredible! These young men and women
are so dedicated and want to serve our country. There
are so many who want to come into the military today.
The educational level now is higher than it was in
my era. It's amazing. I've got linguists, surgeons,
nurses and medics, interpreters, lawyers, judges,
criminal investigators, port operators and more highly
articulate and educated young, and some not so young,
What do you see as important in today's world?
When I talk to my soldiers or any soldier, one of
the most important things we emphasize is values.
What values are necessary?
The U.S. Army teaches and values LDRSHIP, an
acronym for Loyalty, Duty, Respect,
Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity,
Personal Courage. It takes courage to do what
is right and tell people they're doing wrong. If we
look at what it takes to be a good citizen, friend,
student, or family member, these values are necessary
for anyone. In addition, we have the Warrior Ethos:
we don't accept defeat and never leave a fallen comrade.
When I ask my soldiers, "Are you wearing your
dog-tags?" I'm asking them if they're living
those values. The values are on a plastic tag hanging
on their dog-tags. We all have these values. We have
to live them; and if we do what's best for the organization
as a whole, we will serve the soldiers very well.
They're the ones who take the hill or fight in the
desert. We have to take care of them, give them the
best strategy and the best tools because they're the
ones taking care of us.
What were you doing before 9/11?
I was in a division element that looked at people
to make sure they were trained and ready to execute
missions according to doctrine, a system and format
that includes rules of engagement and a code of conduct.
We train everyone the same way.
Do you feel your role has changed since 9/11?
My primary task is to give soldiers the proper training
and equipment so they can survive in combat and execute
the missions assigned to them by the Combatant Commanders.
What has changed is how we think and how we approach
the task of fighting a terrorist organization(s) that
threatens our very lives and security. We have been
preparing for conflict. 9/11 brought the devastation
to our soil and killed Americans. Now the Army has
the task to find and destroy those who would threaten
us and repeat similar attacks as we have seen in other
parts of the world. The U.S. Army Reserve and National
Guard soldiers are on the government payroll to fill
out the Active Army formations. I am incredulous when
I hear that the Reserves should not be used to fight
in conflicts. The Cold War is over. There are no lines
now. Within 20 miles from where you are, there are
two or three groups that are sympathetic to Al Queda
and are providing Al Queda with financial support.
What has really changed is the way we operate -- the
way we fight and defend ourselves. Since 9/11, we
have changed our training four times because the enemy
has changed the plan of attack and tactics on us.
As we continue to retrain them, we have to keep changing
doctrine. We're adjusting on a daily basis.
Isn't there something you can do about the Al
In this country, we do have freedom of speech and
the right to assemble. Thus, it's even more important
to understand that regardless of what Al Queda or
terrorist supporters do or where they go, we are a
target. We have to watch ourselves, too -- what we
do and how we defend ourselves. The U.S. Army Reservists
are now being approached by the press. They need to
think in detail about the image they want to portray.
They may not know all the information and give inaccurate
information. But what they do give will be believed.
Before 9/11, no one listened to an Army Reservist.
That has changed, so we have to be careful. We want
to be positive examples. There's enough negative stuff
Do you find yourself praying for our troops and
Oh yes. I've been working with the 23rd Psalm and
with a verse from Hebrews: