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Panel discusses total force integration during AFA

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Meredith Mingledorff
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
Former Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters moderated a panel of senior leaders examining the total force during the Air Force Association Air, Space, and Cyber Conference in National Harbor Sept. 18.

The panel focused on Air Force integration of Guard and Reserve personnel into missions across all spectrums of responsibility. 

Expert insight was provided by Shon J. Manasco, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Gen. James M. Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, director of the Air National Guard, and Lt. Gen. Richard W. Scobee, chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander Air Force Reserve Command . 

The Guard and Reserve have been invaluable since their inception 70 years ago. But the value of that combination was made especially clear Sept. 11, 2001, Peters said.  

Since those attacks, part-time forces are relied upon heavily to meet mission requirements and provide unique manpower solutions to fit the needs of American security within the constraints of Air Force resources. 

Leveraging experience and talent, Guard and Reserve commanders apply manpower solutions with a talent pool recruited and retained from active duty, industry, academia and American communities. 

“It would be impossible for the Air Force to recruit and retain the level of experience Guard and reservists bring to the team without a part-time service option,” Scobee said.

Rice echoed that assessment, adding, however, that the Guard is not trying to take active-duty Airmen away from their full-time contracts, rather his command is offering options for Airmen who still want to serve.

“What I want to do is provide Airmen options to continue their service if leaving active duty is a choice they’ve already made on their own,” he said. 

According to panel members, Air Mobility Command now has more Reserve personnel than active-duty Airmen. Other missions strengthened by the part-time force are the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities the Guard provides with unique expertise. 

According to Scobee, strategic depth and readiness, resilient leadership and organizational reform are priorities. 

While part-time uniformed service brings many benefits to the Air Force, member and American public, it is not without its challenges.
  
Manasco identified four areas where improvement is needed: laws governing the Guard and Reserve must be legislated correctly from the start to minimize confusion and duplication, the ability for military members to transition between active duty, Guard and Reserve must be easier, mobilization notices given to Reserve Airmen needed to deploy or activate should be given sooner, allowing more time for reservists to prepare and administrative processes such as pay and benefits must be brought to the Air Force standard of excellence. 

According to Holmes, ACC’s mission relies heavily on guardsmen and reservists, who he sees as valuable mission partners critical to success. He specifically acknowledged the New Jersey National Guard for their full-spectrum readiness, stating their flexibility and ability to provide novel solutions provides “tremendous results.” 

Holmes said he saw it as a senior leader priority to remove barriers to total force integration to ensure the right people serve in the right status to effect rapid manpower solutions across the Air Force’s multiple domains. 

Despite the challenges of balancing civilian careers, private lives and military requirements, Reserve and Guard Airmen are providing agile combat ready forces, fully integrating decades of experience, training and expertise into the Air Force at all levels of command.