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What our reserve force brings to the fight

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- As commander of the 315th Airlift Wing here I sometimes wonder how many people actually know what we, in the Air Force Reserve, bring to the fight. We wear the same uniform, we use the same equipment, we maintain the same training requirements and we proudly serve side-by-side on deployments, in times of war and during humanitarian emergencies. We are virtually indistinguishable in just about every way, so why does the Air Force have an active-duty and Reserve force?

In a nutshell, the Air Force Reserve is a force multiplier. Throughout the Air Force you'll find reservists in every career field and every theater of operations. You'll find our reservists working as security-forces members, as firefighters on the flightline, as aircraft maintainers in the hangars and on the flightline, as aircrew members, as logisticians, as aerial-port specialists, as administrative specialists, as explosive ordnance disposal technicians, as intelligence experts, as medical specialists and more.

While fulfilling about 20 percent of the Air Force's capability, the Air Force Reserve consumes only about 4 percent of the total Air Force budget. The cost/benefit ratio speaks for itself.

There are nearly 72,000 authorized reservists in the Air Force, but who are they? As reservists, they really are not part-time Airmen; they are citizen Airmen who often put their civilian lives and careers on hold to serve in uniform, and they do it in superb fashion.

A typical Reserve aircrew member spends approximately 120 days a year participating, while a maintainer or ground support technician participates approximately 80 days a year. This is a tremendous amount of time when you consider these same people work roughly 240 days a year with their civilian employer. Add in family obligations and this becomes a balancing act of immense portions.

Reservists must constantly address three key components of their personal and professional lives, often called the reserve triad. A reservist must balance the needs of family and the needs of a civilian employer, and also meet stringent reserve requirements.

While this is a delicate balancing act, the added pressures are taken on freely by reservists. Imagine being called to the base to work on an essential mission, only to discover that your civilian employer is not happy because you have been spending "too much time away" from your job. It happens, and happens a lot.

This balancing act requires clear communication, effective utilization of the reservist's time (remember, reservists have the same training requirements as all Airmen) and an overwhelming desire to serve. Despite these demands, our reservists answer our nation's call with the same quality and dedication as our active-duty brothers and sisters. Regardless of their career field, I am always impressed by their commitment to serve their country -- in many cases putting their lives on the line while doing so.

After serving in the Air Force Reserve for about 30 years now, I am pleased to see the lines distinguishing active-duty and the Reserve blur, while not losing our "Reserve" identity.

We train the same and we fight the same. We serve for the same reasons: for love of country and freedom.

I am proud of our reservists' ability to answer our nation's call with the same quality and dedication as our active-duty brothers and sisters.