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Change, challenge face Citizen Airmen

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (Blue color), U.S. Air Force graphic

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (Blue color), U.S. Air Force graphic

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Challenge and change were the key messages the Air Force’s top enlisted person brought to members of Air Force Reserve Command while visiting the headquarters here during week-long activities to honor the command’s Outstanding Airmen of the Year.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Gerald Murray said April 20 that the Reserve is shouldering work like never before. Meanwhile, the Total Force, numbering some 700,000 strong, is facing efforts to cut and reorganize existing levels of people, equipment and other resources.

“We’ve been keeping everyone busy,” what with responses to hurricanes and earthquakes as well as the fights in Afghanistan and Iraq, Chief Murray said. He said today’s Air Force mission could not be done without the reserve components.

“We found after the Cold War that we had to change our thinking about reserve forces,” the chief said. “We wanted to think of (Air Force reservists) as active participants, and they signed up for that. They are unrivaled wingmen.”

Chief Murray said the Air Force has gone through a lot of changes in recent years, and more are on the way. One significant change will involve a reduction in the number of Airmen over then next five years, he said, adding that 10,000 Airmen cost about $1.5 billion per year to fund. With progress, technology and streamlining of services, jobs can be reduced in favor of recapitalization of resources.

“We’re not broken in any way, just imbalanced,” he told about 250 Airmen during a town hall meeting. “Over the next five years, we’re going to cut 57,000 people. We’ve got to shrink the size of our force in order to keep up with other efforts.”

Just because manpower will decrease doesn’t mean AFRC’s level of involvement in the Air Force’s day-to-day activities will slow down. Since Sept. 11, 2001, about 24,000 reservists have deployed to help fight the global war on terrorism, with 15,000 of those volunteering for duty. That level of involvement is expected to continue.

In addition, the Reserve is expanding its role in some missions – space and unmanned aerial vehicles, for example – and is preparing to get involved in some new mission areas.

“We are facing some big changes, and I need everyone to work together to emerge better equipped and more ready than ever to confront the current and future enemies that threaten our nation,” said Lt. Gen. John A. Bradley, AFRC commander, in a recent Citizen Airman magazine commentary.

Chief Murray also praised the sacrifice reservists make.

“Many of you are public servants outside of our military realm – firefighters, police officers, medical personnel, clergy and others,” he said. “You regularly trade one uniform for another. There’s a sacrifice that comes with that trade, but we enjoy the fringe benefits when you blend into our active-duty units. We share talents and experiences that further our cooperation and understanding.”

Meanwhile, the 14th chief master sergeant of the Air Force said while the maelstrom of change swirls, active-duty and Citizen Airmen have not lost a step while flying and fighting.

“It’s just been phenomenal to watch,” he said. “None of our missions could be done without teamwork.” (AFRC News Service)

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