Reservist force is in crisis, says general By Francis Harris (Filed: 07/01/2005) America's reserves, a vital prop for the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, are close to collapsing under the strain of deployment abroad, according to their commander. Lt Gen James Helmly, a famously straight-talking member of the US top brass, sounded the alarm about his 200,000-strong force in a memo to the chief of staff. The reserve was "rapidly degenerating into a broken force", he wrote in the leaked document, and was already unable to meet "mission requirements" for America's two biggest military operations. Lt Gen Helmly criticised the Pentagon's failure to place military considerations above "caring" policies. In particular he attacked the ability of reservists to avoid service overseas, a system designed for "peace rather than war". His proposals for reform had received "no action or support" from the military hierarchy, he complained. "Demands to use only 'volunteers' from the reserve components threaten to distort the very nature of service," he wrote. The reserve has been a crucial element of America's war on terrorism. Almost 20,000 reserve troops are in Iraq and Afghanistan, with another 30,000 called up to serve in America, so freeing regular troops for service abroad. Some former soldiers, as well as their families and employers, have expressed dismay at being called up for lengthy deployments. The general also attacked a plan to pay those sent overseas an extra Â£540 a month, saying it undermined the principle of a volunteer force. "We must consider the point at which we confuse 'volunteer' â¦ with mercenary." # Massacre find: The decomposing bodies of 18 Iraqi labourers massacred by insurgents were returned to their families yesterday. The men, all Shia Muslims from Nasiriyah in the south, were recruited last month to work at a US base near Mosul in the north but were intercepted en route. Their bodies were found 50 miles west of Mosul.