From the Top: No better time to be a Reservist

Lt. Gen. John A. Bradley

Lt. Gen. John A. Bradley

WASHINGTON -- The year 2006 has been a time of significant accomplishment for us in all areas of the Air Force Reserve. We should remember those things that provided exciting opportunities, those things that challenged us and the missions we accomplished despite the challenges. In addition, we should pause and give thanks for the support we've received from our families, neighbors and employers this year, to remember and to honor those who have lost their lives in this long war, and to be excited about what lies ahead in 2007.

This year we continued to exceed our professional standard of excellence -- providing the world's best mutual support to the Air Force and our joint partners -- flying and fighting as an unrivaled wingman. At Balad Air Base, Iraq, the 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron mirrors where our Air Force is going. The squadron features an active-duty commander, an Air National Guardsman as operations officer and a Reservist as first sergeant.

I recently returned from Afghanistan where I had the good fortune to meet with the men and women of the 384th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. The number 384 was designated by adding the Reservists from the 303rd Fighter Squadron and the regular component 81st FS. This team decided to do more than just put Total Force into practice. It created unity at a level the individual members will remember for the rest of their careers.

No one does this -- working and flying together with the regular component -- better than the Air Force Reserve. We have done it for almost 40 years. The collective efforts of regular, Guard and Reserve forces continue to yield tremendous successes for the joint team and our nation.

Since the holiday season is often a time for reflection, I will briefly share some of our command highlights. We activated a new space unit; the 482nd, 419th, 301st and 944th Fighter Wings returned from Balad; we dedicated the Spirit of Ronald Reagan, a new C-17 at March Air Reserve Base, Calif; we are flying weekly channel missions in support of Combined Joint Task Force -- Horn of Africa; we accelerated the Base Realignment and Closure action in New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina; the 624th Civil Engineer Squadron construction project at Camp Navarro, Phillipines, built a basketball court for hundreds of children; we provided medical assistance to the people of El Salvador; our Patriotic World Tour joined the Band of the Air Force Reserve with Lee Greenwood on a round-the-world trip; Reservists from Willow Grove, Niagara Falls and Peterson deployed to the Southwest Asia area of responsibility; the 303rd FS won the A-10 Hawgsmoke competition; we selected the initial cadre for our new F-22 associate unit in Alaska; the 442nd FW deployed to Bagram; the 93rd Bomb Squadron participated in Valiant Shield; security forces deployed to Bagram; our B-52s were the first to be Litening ready; Portland and Milwaukee began their drawdowns; the 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron began a fourth four-month rotation of duty moving patients around the continental United States; the 910th Airlift Wing at Youngstown participated in a significant oil spill response exercise with first responders; and our recruiters topped their goal again -- for the sixth consecutive year! We saw the first flight of a C-130 Avionics Modernization Program aircraft. During the dedication of the Air Force Memorial, Air Force Reservists played an integral part from wearing vintage uniforms to participating in a mass enlistment on stage to offering information about the Air Force Reserve to the thousands of people in attendance.

These contributions are, in fact, only a few of this year's highlights. I would certainly need a book to cover the depths of your great accomplishments and dedication to duty. Dedication to duty is your gift to this nation. This precious gift doesn't come easy. It's hard to be away from home, family and loved ones, especially during the holidays. It's also hard on families that are left behind. The important job you do has earned a special place in the hearts and minds of Americans. They find strength in your courage and inspiration in your sacrifices.

Whenever I wear the Air Force uniform, I am always awed by the number of community members who are compelled to approach me and ask questions or, in the case of war veterans, just share a war story or two. They never allow me to leave without thanking me for my service. However, I tell them that I work at a desk in the Pentagon; our Airmen do all the work in some tough places.

The Total Force is constantly redefined through the innovation that comes from unity of thought. We are one team, same fight ... an unrivaled wingman, with a shared, disciplined combat focus. I look forward to serving with and seeing all of you in the year ahead. Jan and I wish you a happy holiday season and New Year filled with opportunity and blessings. Be safe, fly safe and thank you for all you do!