Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, Master Sgt. Kandi Costa and Lt. Gen. James "JJ" Jackson, Chief of Air Force Reserve and Commander, Air Force Reserve Command, cut a cake to mark the Reserve's 68th birthday, April 14, 2016, in the Pentagon. (U.S/Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash)
By Rindi White
Sixty-nine years ago, on April 14, under the watch of President Harry Truman, the Air Force Reserve was created as a standby force. Now, more than a quarter of all forward-deployed airmen come from the Air Force Reserve, said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James when speaking during the Reserve’s birthday celebration last year.
The Air Force Reserve became the ninth-major military command in 1997. According to James, more than 147,000 reservists fought in the Korean War, 19,000 served during the Cuban missile crisis and 38,000 deployed in support of the Persian Gulf War. Air Force Reserve mobilization peaked in March 2003, with more than 14,000 reservists called to active duty at home and abroad, according to the U.S. Air Force.
“Throughout nearly seven decades, the Air Force Reserve has been there with us every step of the way, every time we’ve had a challenge around the world,” said James.
The Air Force Reserve currently performs about 20 percent of the work of the Air Force, from traditional flying missions to more specialized missions, such as weather reconnaissance, modular aerial firefighting and personnel recovery.
According to the Air Force Reserve, its total membership is currently about 69,000. Headquarters are located at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. The Reserve is composed of the 4th Air Force, 10th Air Force and 22nd Air Force, according to the Reserve. Under those are 35 wings, 10 independent groups and several mission support units, all located at nine reserve bases, 54 active duty, Joint Reserve and Air National Guard bases, and five miscellaneous locations.
Most reservists (nearly 70 percent) work one weekend a month and two weeks a year, but there are several other categories of service in the Air Force Reserve. Some reservists are part time and others full time. All contribute by providing an integrated, flexible and combat-ready force that supports national security objectives.
In speaking to Congress during the House Armed Services Committee’s Readiness Subcommittee hearing, Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, Air Force Reserve chief and commander of the Air Force Reserve Command spoke to the importance of the partnerships between active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard on national readiness.
“Associations are critical to our readiness and our ability to get the mission done every day,” Miller said. “We are the smallest Air Force that we’ve been, and it takes each one of the components to provide combat power and respond to emerging threats – integration is key.”
In an Air Force news story about her testimony before the congressional subcommittee, she said the Air Force Reserve needs to grow its force to include cyber, intelligence, space and remotely piloted aircraft operators.
“We are short in certain critical skills where the demand is high,” Miller said. “We are providing incentives to bring and keep them in.”
The news story said manning shortages are not due to recruiting challenges as much as retaining the critical skills needed to meet the emerging mission requirements. She and other senior leaders asked Congress to provide funding so they can improve manning, critical mission areas and infrastructure.
“As you know, our people are our greatest asset to ensuring global vigilance, global reach and global power,” Miller said. “Portions of our force are stressed, but our airmen are resilient, engaged and honored to serve.”