•  Carrier

The Nation's Indispensable Reserve

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley, Ph.D., P.E., BCEE, D.WRE, USA, Chief of Army Reserve and Commanding General, U.S. Army Reserve Command


TME: As someone who has spent part of his career both in uniform and in the private sector, how have the experiences in each prepared you for your current role as Chief of Army Reserve and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Reserve Command?

TALLEY: To me, it comes down to hard and soft power. When you think of the mili­tary you think of hard power: We “bark” out orders and soldiers react. We use our command authority to get things done. If I outrank you, you do what I tell you.

Soft power is when you don’t use that sort of authority and rank to get others to do stuff for you. You discuss, and are more collegial in your approach. When I was a department chair at Southern Methodist University I didn’t have hard power over a tenured professor. I couldn’t say, “I want you to do this.” I’d say, “The department is trying to do something to support the university. Would you be willing to help me work on this special project for the dean?”

Soft power is how I get things done. I build consensus, collaborate and develop relationships. I don’t put my hands on my hips and “bark” orders. When people know I’m a careful, compassionate and caring leader, they want to help. Some have criti­cized me for being too CEO-like (I used to be a CEO); but I don’t need to use hard power to demonstrate I have command authority. It’s all about character. It’s humble, selfless service, staying engaged and making a positive impact in the world by serving something other than you. That is something that is so ingrained in our armed forces.

When you look around the world at CEOs and senior military leaders, the CEOs may have a high level of business success, but sometimes they forget about being the humble servant. They start getting confused and thinking it’s really about them. That’s generally when you see those folks self-destruct. It is very important to always remember “it is a privilege to lead others.”

LTG Jeffrey Talley

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, USA, became Chief of Army Reserve and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Reserve Command in June 2012. He is the principal staff adviser to the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff on all Army Reserve affairs. Among his responsibilities he develops Army Reserve budgets, training programs and policy decisions; serves as appropriation director of all Army Reserve funds; and commands all Army Reserve troop program units worldwide, with total end strength of 205,000 soldiers and 12,600 civilians, and an operating budget of over $9 billion. PHOTO BY SGT. 1ST CLASS VALERIE RESCINITI


TME: As the Army reduces its size through force structure reductions, how will that impact the Reserve and what concerns do you foresee in ensuring readiness of the force?

TALLEY: Never before in the history of our nation has the Army Reserve been more indispensable to the Army and the Joint Force. And the reason is the critical skills and capabilities that Army Reserve soldiers bring to the fight.Today’s citizen-soldiers are highly educated and professional in their civil­ian careers. They are our doctors, lawyers, academics, scientists, engineers and infor­mation technology specialists on the leading edge of their fields. They are a new generation of soldiers who grew up with technology in their hands, practice it in their professions, and leverage it while in uniform.

The Army Reserve has been directed to reduce our end strength to 195,000 soldiers by 2017. This can be supported and is an acceptable risk to sustain a ready and operational Army Reserve. It preserves the combat-tested experience of today’s generation that will be used to train the next generation and keep us prepared for the future. Conversely, if the Budget Control Act (sequestration) remains unchanged for FY2016 and beyond, and the Army Reserve is directed to significantly lower its end strength by another 10,000 soldiers and all but eliminate any real collective train­ing, this would negatively impact our ability to provide technical enablers, skills and capabilities vital to success in many missions and would result in significant (high) risk in our ability to support the Army and the Total Force. Sequestration will de facto make the Army Reserve a strategic force—something nobody wants!


TME: With more than 70 percent of Army engineers in the Reserve Component (National Guard and Army Reserve), what are some of the issues and challenges you are seeing to continue being able to support the Army Engineer Total Force?

TALLEY: When we look at leadership and engineering, the first thing we look for in the private sector is demonstrated competence in that technical field of engi­neering, which is normally attributed to an ABET-accredited engineering degree from a university, along with the right level of experience, which is acquired after you pass the fundamentals of engineering exam. Eventually, you need to take and pass the professional engineer exam to be licensed in your engineering specialty.

In the Army Reserve, we are finding it is harder and harder to retain technical engineers. Trying to balance very demand­ing careers in engineering firms and orga­nizations, while also balancing the huge demands of being a leader in the Reserve Component is tough. We have to continue to educate and inform and search out those highly qualified men and women and show them how their experiences in the Army Reserve enhances their abilities to not only lead, but also do technical engineering in a broader sense and make them more valu­able as employers. In the end, the Engineer Regiment needs soldiers with a broad range of skills, not just technical skills. However, when folks see that castle on your collar, they have come to expect both Sappers, construction, and contracting expertise – Essayons!


TME: How do humanitarian projects supported by the Army Reserve contribute to the United States’ strategic mission internationally?

TALLEY: The Army’s strategy of “Prevent, Shape, and Win” recognizes the important role that engineering plays in combat and in preventing conflict. Executing Title 10 training missions that result in humanitar­ian projects is a great way to “prevent and shape” in a Combatant Commander’s area of responsibility. These projects provide our soldiers with real-world training while producing on-the-ground deliverables to communities that need help. This approach to training has long been practiced in the Army Reserve as soldiers, leaders and units operate globally as part of Theater Exercises and/or Overseas Deployments for Training.

Engineers are almost always the most requested capability and there is nothing more satisfying than returning from a training mission knowing you are a better soldier and leader in a unit that has really helped others through your efforts. It epito­mizes our motto – “Twice the Citizen”!


"Today’s citizen-soldiers are highly educated and professional in their civil­ian careers. They are our doctors, lawyers, academics, scientists, engineers and information technology specialists on the leading edge of their fields." 


TME: What ways does the Reserve ensure that its engineer soldiers remain ready and proficient to support the Total Engineer Force?

TALLEY: There is a national problem in America—a shortage of men and women who want to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). We are seeing in the Army Reserve that it is difficult to retain men and women in STEM areas. Since the Army Reserve consists predominately of technically-oriented specialties and fields, our demand for STEM graduates is high. The Army Reserve is working towards agreements that would allow us to part­ner with the private, public and academic sectors, both for profit and not-for-profit companies and corporations.

These partnerships could provide valu­able professional and trade credentialing opportunities and as a result, make better citizen-soldiers. Some of these organiza­tions sponsor seminars to help soldiers learn support capabilities, teach soldiers to be better project managers, and help soldiers understand and stay current on organiza­tional software. These types of partnerships allow for sharing best practices from the private and military sectors, making better employees and citizen-soldiers.


TME: You are a Life Member of SAME. What are some things SAME can do whether through credentialing support, professional development, or other ways, to help support Reserve engineer soldiers?

TALLEY: Partnership. The Army Reserve Private Public Partnership Initiative (P3i) unites for-profit, not-for-profit and academic organizations to advance the readiness of our soldiers, leaders and units. With more than 6,000 agreements, P3i brings together the best from the civilian and military communities as it provides unique professional and trade career development. P3i offers mentor-protégé coaching, credentialing, certification, and licensing opportunities. Working through our agreements, the Army Reserve gener­ates readiness using private sector funds. 

I’ll give a couple of examples. Physical readiness is always a challenge since most units conduct their Battle Assemblies monthly. Tony Horton, creator of P90x, and his organization, are collaborating with the Army Reserve to construct a creative physical fitness program to keep our citizen-soldiers more fit. Leadership is the cornerstone of the mili­tary. To maintain and improve our leaders, companies and corporations provide train­ing seminars. From a unit perspective, there are companies we partner with, along with our Combatant Commands and the State Department to accomplish missions. In Africa, for instance, we are supporting water projects through the U.S. Water Partnership, a not-for-profit corporation. Funding is provided through the not-for-profit by for-profit companies that have a strong interest in funding Africa water projects. Our soldiers can participate in these proj­ects through training missions that help the local communities while improving the readiness of America’s Army Reserve. Check out P3i at www.usar.army.mil to get involved.


 [article first published in the November-December 2014 issue of TME]


Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley, Ph.D., P.E., BCEE, D.WRE, USA, became Chief of Army Reserve and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Reserve Command in June 2012. He graduated from Louisiana State University in 1981 with a Regular Army commission in the Corps of Engineers. During over 31 years of active and reserve service, he has commanded units at every echelon, from platoon to division-level, with duty in Korea, Kuwait, Iraq, and the United States. In February 2003, Gen. Talley deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom as Chief of Operations, 416th Engineer Command, Coalition Joint Forces Land Component Command. He then served in the Pentagon as a Strategic Planner in the Deputy Directorate for the War on Terrorism, Strategic Plans & Policy Directorate (J-5), Joint Chiefs of Staff. In January 2008, he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as Commander, 926th Engineer Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division-Baghdad and the Baghdad Provincial Engineer. From June 2009–April 2012 he was Commanding General, 84th Training Command, Fort Knox, Ky. Prior to his return to active military service, Gen. Talley was President & CEO and Co-Founder of Environmental Technology Solutions (ETS Partners), as well as an Adjunct Professor at The Johns Hopkins University. Other civilian experiences include leadership positions at Southern Methodist University, the University of Notre Dame, Malcolm Pirnie Inc., and the Corps of Engineers. He holds a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and an Executive M.B.A. from the University of Oxford. He also holds multiple master’s degrees in Strategic Studies, Environmental Engineering and Science, Liberal Arts (History and Philosophy), and Religious Studies.