2000 - Present
When terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, Air Force Reservists responded in full measure. Air Force Reserve F-16 fighters flew combat air patrols (CAPs) protecting America's cities while KC-135 tanker and AWACs aircraft supported with air refuelings and security. In October 2001, the United States initiated the Global War On Terrorism as military forces entered Afghanistan to combat the Taliban in Operation Enduring Freedom. Air Force Reserve MC-130 Combat Talon aircraft became the first fixed-wing aircraft to penetrate Afghan airspace while Air Force Reserve F-16 crews, already deployed in theater for Operation Southern Watch, performed the first combat missions.
Air Force Reservists made significant contributions by flying close air support, combat delivery, rescue, strategic airlift, and air refueling missions supporting operations in Afghanistan. They also provided B-52, special operations, aeromedical, security forces, and civil engineering support. Air Force Reserve A-10s, HH-60s and C-130s still continue to perform rotational tours in Afghanistan, and Air Force Reservists have been instrumental in building the Afghan National Army Air Corps.
When war against Saddam Hussein's regime began in March 2003, Air Force Reserve combat-ready A-10, B-52, and F-16 aircrews flew numerous strike operations during the first hours of engagement and performed special operations and rescue missions. Air Reserve rescue personnel were among the first into Tallil Air Base as Reserve A-10s provided close air support. Part of the lead tanker force, Reserve tankers offloaded more than 21 million pounds of fuel to more than 1,000 aircraft. In late March 2003, fifteen C-17 Reserve associate crews supported the C-17 airdrop, which opened up the Northern Front in Iraq.
Additionally, Reservists supported Air Force unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) missions and space-based operations in Southwest Asia, providing essential data to battlefield commanders. During the combat phase (19 March-1 May) Air Force Reserve aircraft and crews flew nearly 162,000 hours and deployed 70 unit-equipped aircraft in theater while aeromedical personnel provided 45 percent of the Air Force's aeromedical crews that performed 3,108 patient movements.
The Air Force Reserve continues to expand its associate construct across the mission spectrum. Specific examples are the Air Force Reserve associating at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, flying the F-22 and the active duty associating with the C-40C at Scott AFB, and the C-5 at Lackland AFB, Texas. On the horizon, associate units will include future weapon systems such as the F-35 Lightning II and the Next Generation Bomber.
In adapting, changing, and responding these past sixty years, the Air Force Reserve has truly evolved into an operational reserve force. Dedicated Citizen-Reservists provide the world's best mutual support to the Air Force and our joint partners--Flying and Fighting as an Unrivaled Wingman.