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News | Feb. 24, 2022

Putting the “Serve” in Reserve

By Lt. Cdr. Greg Melville

Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Terry Adams puts the “serve” in “Reserve.” An undergraduate majoring in aeronautical science, he’s serving on mobilization orders for Combined Task Force 59 (TF 59), one of three units composed of mostly U.S. Navy Reserve Sailors operating in Bahrain, attached to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT)/U.S. 5th Fleet. The other two units are Coalition Task Force Sentinel (CTF Sentinel) and Navy Coordination and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS).
The three units performed important roles at International Maritime Exercise/Cutlass Express 2022 (IMX/CE 2022), the Middle East’s largest maritime training event, held Jan. 31 to Feb. 17. The exercise, led by NAVCENT/5th Fleet and U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, involved more than 60 nations and international organizations and spanned the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, and North Indian Ocean.
Reserve Sailor support for IMX/CE 2022—and NAVCENT/5th Fleet as a whole—showcases the emerging success of the U.S. Navy Reserve’s new Four Lines of Effort: to design, train, mobilize, and develop the force.
“Reserve Sailors are an integral part of the NAVCENT/5th Fleet mission,” said Rear Adm. Robert Nowakowski, reserve vice commander, NAVCENT/5th Fleet. “They are highly trained, highly competent professionals who bring not only their military experience to the fight, but their civilian expertise, as well.”
The Navy Reserve’s newest line of effort, incorporated in Jan. 2022, is “Develop the Force”. It emphasizes fostering professional growth, taking care of individual sailors and their families, and minimizing administrative distractions in order to allow Sailors to focus on preparedness and wellness.
CTF Sentinel is dependent upon a well-developed force, requiring members who are ready to jump into their roles and instantly perform at a high level. The task force is the operational arm of the International Maritime Security Construct, an eight-nation coalition tasked with ensuring freedom of navigation throughout the Middle East region. Roughly half CTF Sentinel’s personnel are U.S. Navy, all of whom are mobilized Reserve Sailors.
Quartermaster Second Class Adam Morris of CTF Sentinel is an example of what effective pre-mobilization preparedness and force development looks like. A high school physics teacher in Texas in the civilian world, he spent two years training with his Navy Reserve unit back home to master the computer systems he now employs in Bahrain.
“If someone were put into my role without the kind of training I’ve received, they couldn’t do the work,” he said.
During IMX/CE 2022, the CTF focused on ways to improve coordination among regional naval forces when dealing with maritime security crises. Morris said the real-world implications of his work, and that of his fellow Reserve Sailors in the unit, is the greatest reward.
“There’s an immediate, tangible and relatable effect of the actions I help take,” he said. “It’s personally so enriching.”
One of the goals of the Navy Reserve’s “Design the Force” line of effort is to turn more broadly to new capabilities like unmanned autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence. TF 59 at NAVCENT/5th Fleet oversees this mission.
The task force is a first-of-its kind unit, two-thirds of which consists of Navy Reserve Sailors, tasked with integrating unmanned systems and artificial intelligence into maritime operations within the 5th Fleet area of operation. At IMX/CE 2022, the world’s largest unmanned maritime exercise, TF 59 stood at the center of the action.
TF 59 personnel deliver expertise connected to the science, technology, and aviation fields, including Adams, who majored in aeronautical science.

“Nothing is ever boring for our unit,” said Adams. “And there’s a bit of pride in knowing what we’re doing here, what we’re spearheading, will someday be shifted to different areas of operation.”
The Navy Reserve’s “Train the Force” line of effort focuses on preparing, enhancing, and sustaining Sailors for their mobilization billet. For a unit like 5th Fleet’s NCAGS, with personnel who perform highly specialized work, a well-trained force is essential. Staffed only by Navy Reserve Sailors, it serves as the communication interface in the Middle East region between Naval forces, local port officials, and American-flagged merchant ships.
Officers in the unit must either be Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) qualified, or be licensed merchant mariners, according Cdr. Phillip Casalegno, the commanding officer of 5th Fleet NCAGS. Such deep connections to the commercial industry, and such intricate knowledge of how it operates, is essential in a crisis or contingency, when the slightest delays can cost lives. In 5th Fleet waters, NCAGS tracks as many as 100 American-flagged vessels per day.
“You can’t handle a maritime crisis or event without addressing commercial shipping,” says Casalegno. “NCAGS brings a whole level of depth by adding the commercial shipping experience.”
During IMX/CE 2022, Casalegno and his crew of 17 worked closely with their German Navy NCAGS counterparts in Bahrain and at ports throughout the region to share communication practices and strengthen ties between regional naval partners participating in the exercise and merchant vessels.
Information systems technician 2nd Class Darwin Ivanovich, a Navy Reserve Sailor, was assigned to an NCAGS team stationed in Egypt for the exercise. He said the chance to participate in events like IMX/CE22 is why he serves. “The Navy Reserve is what you make of it. If you seek out opportunities like this exercise, it’s so enjoyable and fulfilling.”
He added that he especially values the exchange of ideas inherent to working with international partners. “I’m able to learn from them, and then pass along to them knowledge that we have.”
The Navy Reserve’s “Mobilize the Force” line of effort emphasizes more efficient delivery of surge capacity, sometimes on a moment’s notice. The ultimate aim is to be able to mobilize the entire Navy Reserve force within a month.
Nearly all of the billets at CTF Sentinel, Task Force 59, and NCAGS in Bahrain are filled by personnel on mobilization orders. In other words, these units are closely, and constantly, involved with the Mobilize-to-Billet process, which the Navy Reserve is continuing to streamline.
A Reserve force developed, designed, trained, and ready to mobilize is imperative when considering the challenges and threats the U.S. faces. It is the way people like Adams with Task Force 59, or Morris with CTF Sentinel, or Casalegno and Ivanovich with NCAGS, can continue to successfully put the word “serve” in “Reserve.”