Defense Education Forum panelists discuss modernization, emerging missions|
by Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
7/7/2009 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Defense Education Forum panelists recently gathered at the Reserve Officers Association headquarters here to discuss the Air Force Reserve's role in modernization and emerging missions.
Maj. Gen. Howard N. Thompson, the Air Force Reserve deputy, cited the importance of volunteerism as Reserve Airmen focus on strategic and operational balance.
"Modernization of the Air Force Reserve is not a stake in the ground; it's a mindset and a modernization of thought," General Thompson said. "To satisfy the combatant commander's requirements and support total Air Force in meeting those operational requirements is a continual improvement process."
General Thompson said Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., chief of Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command, has designated the AFR's top priorities:
-- Provide an operational, combat ready force while maintaining a strategic Reserve
-- Preserve the viability of the Reserve triad: Airmen, family and employers
-- Broaden total force integration opportunities to include resource efficiency, manpower and organizations
-- Champion equipment and facilities modernization to include National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation and military construction.
General Thompson said total force integration has become increasingly important as Air Force officials further develop the cyber and irregular warfare missions.
"Total force integration is the lens through which the Air Force Reserve deciphers how to leverage the money, resources and talent of our force to do what the nation needs us to do," General Thompson said.
The advantages of total force integration and exposure of citizen Airmen to the joint environment is not only good for the Reserve, but also good for the Air Force, the general said.
"We're at a sustainable, steady state of supporting the operational requirements of active duty Air Force, while maintaining the ability to provide depth in our strategic Reserve," General Thompson added.
The panel of experts included Col. Charles Sachs, the individual mobilization augmentee to the director of intelligence, operations and nuclear integration for Air Education and Training Command headquarters at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.
Colonel Sachs cited Department of Defense Directive 3007.07, which he said has now put the irregular warfare mission on par with conventional warfare in strategic military planning.
"Our Air Force must be as competent and capable in irregular warfare as it is in conventional warfare," Colonel Sachs said.
Colonel Sachs and his fellow panelists explained that the irregular warfare mission continues to take shape thanks to lessons learned from counter-insurgency, counter-terror, and stability operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other forward operating locations.
"A key component for IW mission success requires our defense warfighters to help partner nations develop their stability, security, and legitimacy in line with U.S. national security interests," Colonel Sachs said. "This focus enables us to develop the strategies, tools, and capabilities -- new approaches -- for dealing with future complex and increasingly asymmetrical challenges to our military and geopolitical interests."
The colonel explained that the Air Force chief of staff, in support of DOD's "Building Partnership Capacity" initiatives, has directed the Air Force to stand up a permanent Air Advisor School that trains Airmen for future missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Air Education and Training Command officials are leading this effort.
"The Air Force Reserve helps the Air Force determine how the air Reserve component can be most effectively leveraged in IW and BPC missions."
Such new approaches also apply to relying on the the talent of reservists to excel in the cyber arena. General Thompson cited Moore's Law, which states that technology capabilities double roughly every 18 months.
"Industry can work within Moore's Law, so we can have our reservists stay up to speed on training in these new technologies and leverage their expertise for the military," General Thompson said.
Another panelist, Col. Leonard Dick of the Air National Guard and AFRC Test Center in Tucson, Ariz., discussed the Air Force Reserve's advantages in modernization and acquisition due to three-year test and modernization funding cycles from the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation. NGREA has funded the test center's involvement with each of the Air Force Reserve's 373 aircraft.
"NGREA gives us a specific three-year funding outlook, allowing us to look inside the process," Colonel Dick said. "Because our requirements are not as 'top-down-driven' as the active duty Air Force, we get many of our (modification and development) recommendations from people in the field."
Perspectives from citizen Airmen in the field also greatly impact the Air Force Reserve's role in cyber warfare. Colonel Dick said the less transient nature of the Reserve lends itself to retaining the most experienced people to advance the cyber mission.
"For the actual technicians working in our cyber career fields, this isn't something you do for a few years and move on," Colonel Dick said. "Many people devote 10, 15, even 20 years or more to their civilian technology-driven careers, and dedication to this specialized mission works really well with the Air Force Reserve Command concept."
Whether in cyber, irregular warfare, or any Air Force specialty code, volunteers are vital to mission success, General Thompson said. Since the Air Force Reserve achieves almost all of its operational requirements through volunteerism, taking care of citizen Airmen is paramount.
The general explained that partnership with the Reserve Officers Association has improved the way the Air Force Reserve helps take care of reservists and their families with the reported success of TriCare Reserve Select and Employer Support of Guard and Reserve programs.
"ESGR has helped maintain crucial links to our employers," General Thompson said. "The program provides employers the planning data they need so that our Reserve participation is well-planned while protecting employees' jobs."