Air Force's birthday a celebration of the Total Force

  • Published
  • By Maj Gen Stayce Harris
  • 22nd Air Force commander
As we celebrate the Air Force's 67th birthday, we also commemorate the diverse group of airmen who are the engine of our service--Active Duty, Guard and Reserve.

Our Reserve Component is a powerful manifestation of the finest American qualities.  It is an organization of ordinary working people who represent the very fabric of our nation and are dedicated to a greater purpose of serving our country. What inspires me to go to work in the morning is the people. Those people are the 15,000 Air Force Reservists under my command who are on the front lines defending this nation and peace around the world.

The word "reserve" sounds like something that's kept on the shelf for when it's finally needed, but I'm here to tell you that the Air Force Reserve is hardly that. We're out there every day along with our brothers and sisters in the active duty military, performing the same missions to the same standards, and often with more experienced airmen. I have full- and part-time reservists working in 23 locations around the country, providing airlift, pilot training, flight test operations, civil engineering, aerial firefighting  and weather reconnaissance at home and across the globe.

In the past decade, the lines between full-time military and the "part-time" military in the Reserve and National Guard have blurred as never before. Because of the demands posed by post 9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the unrelenting pace of military operations, huge numbers of Guard and Reserve troops have served lengthy overseas tours. In a way, this past decade has been a prelude to a dramatic and necessary change for the Air Force.

Last month, my counterparts in Washington released a new strategic framework that outlined how the Air Force must change over the next three decades in order to remain relevant. The framework, titled "A Call to the Future," outlines how the Air Force will need to do business differently to stay relevant in an era of dynamic social and technological change. Who could have envisioned the explosion of social media; the marketing of cell phones to even the most impoverished corners of the earth.

In such a dynamic world, the Air Force will need to practice what we call "strategic agility" to stay one step ahead of potential adversaries. In practice, it means developing and fielding weapons on a much shorter timeline and moving our personnel practices into the 21st century by making it much easier for airmen to move nimbly between part-time and full-time service. For the many thousands of Reservists in the Air Force, it makes perfect sense. Many of us already know the difficulty - and the value - of juggling part-time military careers with full-time civilian jobs as airline pilots, mechanics, computer programmers and stock brokers. It is a formula that has worked extraordinarily well for the Air Force, in part because many high-tech civilian jobs held by Reservists merge well with the high-tech world where airplanes and satellites go.

September 18 is a day to celebrate America's youngest service and to recognize the men and women who serve. Since its inception, the Air Force has proven itself to be a flexible fighting force--capable of surging, refocusing, and continuously engaging without exhausting its resources and people.

Happy Birthday Air Force! Fly-Fight-Win!

Major General Stayce Harris is commander of the 22nd Air Force at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia. She is on a two-year leave of absence from United Airlines.