The Heritage Foundation hosted the Chief of the Air Force Reserve, Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Sept. 24 for a discussion where he first addressed the Air Force Reserve as both a Strategic and Operational Reserve. I’ve already written at length about that topic in the Officer Magazine (Assessing a Strategic Air Force Reserve, Feb 2009). The necessity for a Strategic Reserve for our country has been a topic featured in the Officer as well (Strategic Reserve Still Required, Feb 2009).
The question that remains for the Air Force is how much strategic depth can their Reserve give while serving as an operational force? The Air Force Reserve Command, in its goal to become a fully operational command next to its brothers Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command and the like is making a change to how it manages its Reservists for deployment. This change will help keep the balance needed between the Reserves operational and strategic requirements.
In the past, Reservists were farmed out to the other major commands and managed by the functional managers of each command. If a combatant commander had a need for 10 contracting officers and the Reserve “bought” that requirement, then the Air Expeditionary Force folks had to go to up to 10 different major commands to find the people.
No longer. Air Force Reserve Command will now manage all of its Reservists centrally. Not only will this help with predictability and sustainability, according to Gen Stenner, it will also help with those high demand, low density career fields with people who deploy more often than the average person is expected to go.
As a public affairs officer in my Reserve capacity, I am in one of those high-demand, low-density roles. With only a handful of public affairs professionals in the Air Force, the career field recently had to endure 100 extra deployment taskings for requirements in Afghanistan.
The Active Duty public affairs officers are in a 1-to-1 dwell, meaning for every term they deploy, they are home for equal the amount of time and then go again. Many of these assignments are 6 months to a year long, so folks can expect to go for 6 months or a year and then be home for 6 months or a year before they deploy again.
The Reserve, to keep balance between the civilian, family and military roles of its volunteer force, tries its best to keep that dwell time 1-to-5, meaning be called to serve for a year and then not have to be operational for another five years.
Gen Stenner said that statistics show for every notch down the post he is forced to take that dwell time, about 10 percent of his force leaves the service. So for career fields in the 1-to-3 dwell, statisticians factor in that 20 percent of the force will leave.
Gen Stenner has hopes that changing the Reserve Command to be a direct force provider to combatant commanders will better manage the people in the system to ensure certain pockets of folks are not overburdened while others have not been tasked to do their part.
Given that Joint Forces Command considers the extent to which services have had to mobilize their Reserve and Guard into its decision process for tasking each service with combatant commander requirements, hopefully this change by AFRC will help alleviate the pain across the board.
Today, there are 142,000 Reserve and Guard members on active duty supporting operations around the world. Since 9/11, there have been more than 730,000 citizen warriors called up, some multiple times.
DAVID W. SMALL
Director, Communications and Air Force Affairs
Reserve Officers Association
One Constitution Ave Washington DC 20002
(202) 646-7719, firstname.lastname@example.org
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