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Total force

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Molly Spedding Long
  • IMA to the 50th Security Forces Squadron commander
"Oh, so you're a Reservist."

It is a statement I've heard dozens of times in my six years as a member of the Air Force Reserve.  Sometimes it's tough for me to figure out if it's really a statement or more of a question. And, it is usually accompanied by a slightly confused, mostly mystified look, and then the eyes glaze over.

If I use the term "Total Force" or "Citizen Airman," will the listener comprehend my meaning? Do I start by explaining I have two of everything (at least) in my professional life?  Two jobs, two bosses, two sets of training records, two schedules to manage, and sometimes, two places to be at once?  I am a citizen (sometimes) with a civilian job, family and responsibilities.  I am also an Airman (always) with a position and responsibility to, at a moment's notice, be trained and equipped to deploy anywhere, any time, and take the fight to the enemy.

You may find us assigned to a Reserve wing (such as the 310th Space Wing) as traditional reservists (a.k.a. a "drilling" reservist). We may be imbedded as individual mobilization augmentees within an active duty wing.  Take a look around; there are IMAs in almost every squadron and group at the 50th Space Wing.    
For perspective, Reserve and Guard exist in literally every part of our Air Force mission.  There are Reserve and Guard members in every Air Force specialty code.  In 1990, the Reserve component represented 25 percent of total Air Force end strength; that percentage has increased to more than 35 percent today. In fiscal 2014, there were more than 70,000 Airmen serving in the Reserve component alone.  In fact, Air Force Reserve Command includes 33 flying wings, 12 flying groups and one space wing.  When you add up total service time (meaning time on active duty and Reserve), an officer has 18 years and enlisted have 12 years of experience on average.  The current retention rate is more than 90 percent.  Obviously our Citizen Airmen love what they do.

What do I do?  I happen to be a proud Defender assigned as the IMA to the 50 SFS commander.  The expectations for me are the same as all other reservists. I am expected to perform all the same activities and functions as my active-duty counterpart.  The biggest difference is the limited number of days every year I have to complete all of the same training and qualifications.  When deployed, we are expected to know all the same regulations and perform at the same level as active-duty members.  Challenging?  Yes.  Is it worth it? Absolutely.

For me, the "why" is easy to answer and is the same answer I've had since I first entered active duty in 1999.  I love my country, our precious freedoms, and our optimism in a pessimistic world and am thankful to support these ends by putting on the uniform and serving our proud Nation.  My pride extends to being part of the Total Force developing and supporting highly trained, motivated and resilient Airmen, commanding satellites to deliver decisive global effects.

The bottom line is we are all Airmen.

No one component, active duty, reserve, Air National Guard, can do it alone.

We are the Air Force.  All of us.  Together. Total Force.