From The Top: People’s welfare our top priority as we deal with difficult issues

Lt. Gen. John A. Bradley

Lt. Gen. John A. Bradley

WASHINGTON -- Currently, many changes are being implemented or contemplated in response to base realignments and closures, total force integration, manpower cuts, and tightening budgets. I was the wing commander at Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base, Mo., in 1991 when it was announced that the base would be closing, so I understand the difficult decisions many of you and your families may be facing.

Everyone from the wing level up through our headquarters staff is working hard to ensure our people are taken care of as we grapple with the various Department of Defense and congressional initiatives. The Air Force Reserve continues to play a significant role in the defense of this nation, and we are doing our best to facilitate ways for Reservists to participate in and contribute to this vital mission.

Using our Air Force Reserve vision as a guide, I have asked my staff to stay true to the “aimpoints” that highlight the key strengths of the Air Force Reserve. Building organizations and processes around these strengths is the best way to provide the world’s best mutual support to the Air Force and our joint partners — flying and fighting as an unrivaled wingman.

The first aimpoint in the vision addresses the need for more proactive force planning, in other words, to “optimize ways to employ our forces and advocate processes that make everyone more combat effective.” We have seen a number of attempts to establish Reserve positions to replace regular component manpower reductions, but when considering these initiatives, we must ensure they optimize force employment and combat effectiveness. These positions must also be prioritized against the Reserve portion of our directed end-strength reductions.

Finally, we must continue to evaluate new locations for opportunities to both recruit and serve. We will strike a balance between mission and location to address where our members can realistically serve.

At the same time, we are going to address participation options. Our second vision aimpoint is flexible participation. We will continue to focus our resources on organizations that bring trained people to the fight over the long haul — in a volunteer status. Many people refer to us as an “operational Reserve.” That term describes the gradual move we’ve made over the years from being a strategic force held in reserve toward a force that accomplishes the day-to-day missions of the Air Force.

The term “operational Reserve” has come to mean different things to different people. To me, it means a predominantly part-time force, trained to the same readiness standards as the regular component, a portion of which is mission-tasked and engaged at all times. Members of this operational Reserve are readily available to be voluntarily placed on active duty in support of daily operations or utilized as a surge capacity to conduct operational missions whenever there are not enough trained and ready units or individuals in the regular component.

While I fully support this new approach, we need to assess how operational-based we can be before we start impacting the long-term viability of our reserve-based force. We will need to ensure we are funded appropriate to the mission and that we are operating within the key strengths of the Air Force Reserve. Operations tempo has to be maintained at a level that will not hurt long-term participation, recruiting and retention goals or the connections we have built with communities and employers.

If we are to achieve our vision as an unrivaled wingman, we must continue to meet the needs of our people, their families and their employers as we adapt processes and develop organizations. We are doing everything we can to enable your continued participation. Thank you for your continued support and for the critical role you play in the defense of this nation.