The reason the Air Force Reserve exists is to provide manpower and capabilities to support and defend this nation. This mandate spans the entire spectrum of operations, so we must be prepared to respond to any potential scenario.
As a military organization, our primary focus is combat and operational readiness. However, threats to national security are not limited to adversarial forces. We cannot limit our focus to just combat readiness. Ultimately, our mission is to respond when needed, to any scenario or requirement.
Our world is unpredictable, and the most powerful and volatile force on the planet is nature. Often, when we are called upon to execute a rapid response to an unplanned event, the mission is defense support of civil authorities or disaster relief, rather than combat operations.
Less frequent, but more insidious, are global pandemics, such as the outbreak of COVID-19, which continues to produce widespread effects that require a more complex response.
Responding to COVID-19 is like running a marathon, not a sprint. We can neither predict nor prepare for every possible scenario that may arise. We can maximize our ability to respond and to operate in non-standard circumstances by remaining resilient, flexible and adaptive.
In addition to providing support to Americans in our pandemic response efforts, the Air Force Reserve must protect our Airmen and their families from the COVID-19 virus, while continuing to advance the Air Force Reserve strategic priorities: prioritizing strategic depth and accelerating readiness, developing resilient leaders, and reforming the organization.
In order to minimize the impact to our combat readiness and meet our daily mission requirements, we must continue pursuing alternative and innovative ways to operate.
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the criticality of empowering local commanders to act independently. The severity of the outbreak has varied from region to region. Some locations have been hit harder than others. Therefore, the risk to our wings and unit personnel vary with geographic location. This scenario is further complicated by the differences in mission requirements between units. Certain tasks can be completed from anywhere with ease, whereas others can only be accomplished on location.
Because of the uneven distribution of COVID-19 cases and the unique characteristics of each of our units, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to the pandemic.
Rather, we must tailor preventative measures by location to include when and how to gradually return personnel to their work centers. Local command teams are best suited to make these decisions, because they have the most comprehensive understanding of the unit, its mission, the unit population and the local situation. So rather than issue specific guidance for the entire Air Force Reserve, I provided commander’s intent in response to the pandemic, trusting our command teams to do what is best for their unit.
As always, caring for our Airmen and our families is paramount. We must continue with preventative measures to protect our personnel from COVID-19 and minimize the spread of this virus.
As states ease shelter-in-place restrictions, it is imperative to maintain proper hygiene protocols and standards. We must keep our Airmen well informed about the pandemic and provide them with resources. In situations such as these, it is important for every Airman to maintain strong situational awareness by remaining informed on both the disease and conditions in their local area. Gather information from reliable references, such as the Center for Disease Control, state health agencies, and Department of Defense websites.
If we continue to stay the course throughout this marathon pandemic, we can ensure our Air Force Reserve remains ready and healthy. Stay safe and continue to aim high, Airmen! ■