Reserve Forces Provide Flexibility, Leaders Tell Congress
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 3, 2014 The flexibility and dual skill set of National Guard and Air Force Reserve forces has strengthened national security, the chief of the National Guard Bureau told Congress yesterday.
Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau; Air Force Lt. Gen. James F. Jackson, chief of the Air Force Reserve; and Air Force Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III, director of the Air National Guard, testified alongside Air Force leaders during a Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing.
“I want to start by saying the National Guard does three things well -- fighting our nation’s wars, defending the homeland, and building partnership capacity overseas,” Grass said. “These missions have come to us, both for the Army and Air Guard. We support the [combatant commanders] in every one of those missions.”
Grass said the National Guard wants to maintain the same types of equipment, training and structure that the active force has today.
“Our equipment, training structure and unique, dual skills enable us to provide a cost-effective force that furthers our national security,” he said.
During the past 12 years, the general said, Guardsmen have deployed overseas 760,000 times. “Domestically,” he added, “these soldiers and airmen responded to emergencies in all 10 [Federal Emergency Management Agency] regions during fiscal year 2013.”
The general said the soldiers and airmen of the Washington National Guard are demonstrating that capability with more than 140 soldiers deployed around the world and more than 232 responding to the mudslides in their states, with assistance from Colorado.
“Fiscal challenges will continue to shape us in the future,” Grass said. “I know that the Budget Control Act and sequestration is the law, so we are looking to the future to figure out what capabilities the National Guard will need, both for the governors as well as overseas.”
Clarke said the total force is a “healthy total force.”
“I’ve been on the job a year now,” the Air National Guard director said. “I’ve had the chance to observe it at many levels here in Washington, but more importantly, out in the field.”
It’s a seamless total force, Clarke added, crediting Air Force senior leadership with designing the Air Force that way.
“We operate in a way that you can’t tell the difference between airmen and what they do,” he said. “Behind that is the fact that we have challenges. We want to continue to modernize [and recapitalize] on par with the regular Air Force.”
Clarke said the opportunity to continue to serve operationally next to active and Air Force Reserve airmen is paramount to what the Air National Guard does.
The Air Guard’s strategy going forward, he said, is to make sure that it can be the first choice for homeland operations, and to continue to be a prudent choice for warfighting operations and an enduring choice for security cooperation.
The chief of the Air Force Reserve lauded his forces for their flexibility in missions across a full spectrum of operations.
“Your Air Force Reserve is a combat-ready force,” Jackson said, “stationed locally, and serving globally, in support of every combatant command in air, space and cyberspace.
“One of the key strengths of our Air Force Reserve is the flexibility of [the] force,” he continued. “In my eyes, and we’ve heard this before -- we are no longer a strategic reserve. We are, daily, an operational reserve.”
The Air Force Reserve has wide-ranging operational capability in every combatant command, Jackson said. “Today, over 4,000 Air Force Reserve members are doing exactly that,” he told the panel.
The Air Force Reserve provides strategic depth through its 70,000 selected reserve members, he said, most of whom -- 75 percent -- are part-time. “This includes our individual reservists on all combatant commander staffs and major commands,” he added.
Integrating through associating Reserve units with active-duty units delivers significant taxpayer value in both cost savings and improved mission effectiveness, Jackson said.
“A majority of our reservists serve alongside our active duty members, since a preponderance of associations are within your Air Force Reserve,” he added.
(Follow Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallAFPS)