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Trained and looking forward

Reserve celebrates 106th birthday

Northwest Guardian

Published: 02:39PM May 1st, 2014

Sergeant 1st Class Keela Reyna has been a part of the Army for nearly 40 years, almost all of those as an administrative specialist.

She’s watched the Army change from the Cold War force of March 1979 to the smaller, more agile and expertly trained unit it is today. Yet, on the 106th birthday of the Army Reserve April 23, Reyna had less to say about her past and more to say about the future of the Reserve.

“(The Army of 1979) would send us to less training,” she said during the ceremony at Schwab Center on Lewis Main. “Now, we need to be able to do the same thing.”

It’s the reality of today’s Army that’s important to recognize and honor, Washington’s Army Reserve Ambassador Stan L.K. Flemming said.

“One weekend a month and two weeks a year?” Flemming said. “That’s gone. (Reservists) have to be competent all the way around.”

Flemming, a retired brigadier general and member of the Pierce County Council, said the Army learned that lesson after Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

He recalled a Reservist under his command, 2nd Lt. Virginia Brady, a nurse he had to send out into the field for three days to give comfort to dying Iraqi troops.

Brady was just out of college at the time, Flemming said, “but she had to be that competent, that tough.”

It was that kind of experience that led the Army to move Reserve forces from former strategic roles to an operational ones, requiring Reservists to be trained to the same levels as their active-duty counterparts.

Sergeant Alex Luanglath has embraced the more active role. The youngest Reservist on JBLM just returned from a deployment in Afghanistan.

Luanglath said there still is a big difference in how the Reserve is viewed compared to active-duty Soldiers, but it stopped at perception.

“No one knew I was Reserve until I was leaving,” Luanglath, a supply specialist, said. “I did the same things they would do.”

Luanglath talked about his future plans after cutting the birthday cake with I Corps deputy commanding general Major General Kenneth R. Dahl, 191st Infantry Brigade commander Col. James Danna III, Reyna, Flemming and Ambassador Emeritus Mary Alice Miller.

Luanglath now has a security position with Amazon and is taking criminology courses at Bellevue College. He said he wants to stay in the Army Reserve for the full 20 years, but also looks forward to a career in law enforcement.

Reyna said she’s nearly at the end of her Army Reserve career and still works as a civilian dental assistant.

She said she actually is going to miss the service, including the training.

“It keeps the mind sharp,” she said.