This week's book giveaway is in the OCPJP forum. We're giving away four copies of OCA/OCP Java SE 7 Programmer I & II Study Guide and have Kathy Sierra & Bert Bates on-line! See this thread for details.
This same life cycle occurs even if you just request a JSP that uses Struts tags. The first time the JSP engine encounters a Struts tag, it will initiate the ActionForm lifecycle.
Step 2 (Create or recycle ActionForm) and step 3 (call reset) is where any default values are placed into an ActionForm. If the form is in session scope and existed before this request, any values placed in the ActionForm properties by previous requests will still be there.