Tips for new IMA Reservists

Photo from afreserve.com, filed under “Officer Positions – Acquisition Manager” — note the rank

Congratulations on your assignment as an IMA! You’re going to get a lot of advice, take it all with a grain of salt because every position is unique. What worked for me (or for any other IMA) might not work for you.

Take initiative

This is one piece of advice that I got that I will definitely pass on. You don’t want to be an empty uniform — you want to be a contributor to the unit. One of your key benefits is that you have an outside perspective, and you might be able to find solutions to problems that no-one else can see. Go above and beyond on your main projects, but also show that you can think outside of your job description and discover and execute novel solutions…within a limited amount of time. This leads us to:

Use your time wisely

You have a very limited amount of time in the office to do your work. You only get the two week annual tour and then a bunch of random IDT periods. You should definitely get your telework agreement signed ASAP so you can get the tedious ‘annual training’ computer-based training out of the way at home (and don’t forget to take credit for IDTs). For your in-office time, don’t overload yourself; only take on projects that you know you can complete within the time that you have. You need to figure out how to structure and schedule your work efficiently. I structured my project like a consulting engagement because it required just a ton of buy-in and information gathering from dozens of internal stakeholders, and I had to put my influence skills to work without any authority. Find the framework that works best for you and your project.

You are not active duty any more

People in the office will treat you differently, knowing that you are just a temp. Why should people invest their time in you, if you’re only going to be around for two weeks and then disappear? Maybe they had a bad experience with an IMA reservist in the past, and they assume that you’re just here to clock in and out. Just like a new PCS assignment, you’re starting over and you’re going to have to build trust and credibility really quickly. Introduce yourself to people in the unit, and be humble and willing to learn.

Do your annual training

Figure out and schedule your annual training as soon as you can. During your annual training tour, you become active duty for the duration. This means that you can get all your medical requirements and physical training requirements out of the way, and you avoid a lot of headache for the med group folks and your unit. Very few people know what an IMA is, so if you’re not on your annual tour and ‘activated’ you are going to have to rely on heroic efforts from really, really great people to figure out what to do with you.

You are not alone

As a new IMA, you’re going to have a lot of questions and deal with a lot of ambiguity. You’ll be required to use a lot of tools and systems that you’re not familiar with, and you’re just going to have to figure them out on your own. On top of all this, you need to learn your unit’s processes and systems as well, and you won’t get a lot of time to ramp up. And you probably won’t be getting any continuity binders handed to you.

Nobody is going to hold your hand and help you learn, but you can and should utilize the resources that you do have. You have to figure out who is out there, and what they do. You’ll be a member of at least two organizations – a reserve organization (that has a lot of administrative control over you) and your active duty unit (that has all the operational control over you and some administrative control). Understand who your approvers are in the reserve chain of command. There will be some things that your manager will be responsible for, and there will be some things that your reserve manager will be responsible for. Don’t expect anyone to talk to each other, so it’s up to you to keep everyone informed. Don’t be afraid to over communicate, especially in the beginning.

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