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Reserve commander praises troops, mission

WASHINGTON -- Awareness of, and appreciation for, the sacrifices of airmen and their civilian employers are the keys to success for the Air Force Reserve, its senior leader said.

"The point is to understand what they're doing for their country and the sacrifices they have to make in their personal lives and with their employers," said Lt. Gen. James E. Sherrard III, chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command.

According Sherrard, a three-legged support system is important to mission accomplishment for Reserve members.

"There's a triad -- the family, the unit and the employer," he said. "All three must have a fairly close balance in order for the member to be successful. To date, we're seeing the same response from employers as we're seeing from the American public -- total support."

Acknowledgement from the top is also needed, he said.

"Another key to our success is for Reservists to know their work is respected and appreciated," Sherrard said. "You see that throughout Air Force leadership. The understanding that the role they play ... along with their Air National Guard and active duty counterparts, makes certain that our Air Force is the world's greatest Air Force."

Key components to earning that respect, he said, are experience and a can-do attitude.

The average enlisted airman has about 13.5 years of experience. Officers average nearly 14 years of uniformed service. Sherrard said that experience is vital, since reservists provide about 20 percent of the service's combat capability.

"You can't put a dollar figure on what that value is, but you can certainly put it in there when you look at the combat capability we're able to provide," he said. "It's essential that you have that experience in order to come in and do the things we have to do.

"When we're asked to deploy, we don't have the time to spin up," he said. "We're ready to go in within 72 hours, and we're combat-ready to execute the day we get there."

While every reservist knows that nonvoluntary mobilization is part of the contract, most missions are fully-manned by volunteers.

"There are more than 75,000 in the Reserve Command who are willing to step forward every day," Sherrard said. "Every time we have had a major contingency requirement, we invariably have more volunteers than we have requirements for, initially."

During operations Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle, however, demand at times exceeded supply, he said.

"Some members were, in fact, involuntarily activated," he said. "You do have to do that on occasion."

Mobilization for some Reserve airmen has been extended to a second year of active service.

"The mission for those retained for the second year is still a valid requirement," Sherrard said. "There were some who were disappointed, but I have not had a single person say, 'This is not for me.' They all took it as a requirement and were willing to step forward and do it."

That attitude did not surprise the top reservist.

"It's not anything I didn't expect, because that's the dedicated force we have."

Sherrard quoted a Reserve special operator to describe the attitude of members within his command:

"There are two basic questions we need to ask ourselves: If not now, when? And if not me, who?" he asked.

"That is truly the hallmark of what a reservist will tell you every day -- that they're ready to step forward, knowing they have the support of their home organizations, families and employers to do the things America is asking of them," he said.

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