Air Force Reserve Command’s top leaders visited the 419th Fighter Wing here last week to learn more about the unit’s Total Force partnership with the active duty 388th FW and for an update on the F-35 program, which will be fully online following the delivery of the first aircraft in late 2015.
Lt. Gen. James “JJ” Jackson, chief of Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command, and Chief Master Sgt. Cameron Kirksey, the AFRC command chief, also toured various work areas and held an all call with wing personnel to discuss issues affecting the command.
Staff from the 419th FW Public Affairs office sat down with each afterward for a question and answer session.
Lt. Gen. Jackson
You’ve said that the biggest challenge of your job is making sure the Air Force Reserve story gets out and understood. Why is that so important to you? How can every reservist help tell that story?
A lot of people in the general public, in Congress, and in the active duty don’t fully understand how the Air Force Reserve operates or how we’re organized. We offer efficient, effective capability and it’s crucial we share this message. We have an extremely important mission to provide trained and equipped Citizen Airmen every day. Our 70,000 Citizen Airmen perform the same mission sets and train to the same standard as active duty.
I’d ask that our people educate themselves on our capabilities and mission sets so they can effectively share our story. We have great resources and tools available to our Citizen Airmen to help them do this, such as the AFRC public website (http://www.afrc.af.mil/), the Air Force Reserve monthly snapshot (http://www.afrc.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-141020-012.pdf), unit-level public websites, and our respective Facebook pages to name a few.
What is the most pressing issue currently facing Air Force Reserve Command?
Our present fiscal constraints and looming budget cuts are the biggest issue facing both AFRC and the Air Force. The Reserve Component has the capability to be a key part of the solution. We’re an extremely efficient, cost-effective operational force that offers strategic depth and surge.
How has Reserve service changed in recent times? How has it changed since you joined in 1992?
Today, Air Force reservists work in every job specialty and mission area. We were originally designed for strategic surges during the Cold War, but the Reserve Components are now relied upon as daily operational forces.
Air Force Reserve Command actually didn’t exist back in 1992 when I first became a reservist. AFRC stood up as a MAJCOM in 1997 to take care of the very specific and specialized needs of reservists. We’ve since established a highly efficient, streamlined footprint for taking care of our members.
How do you think AFRC and its mission will be different in 5 years? 10 years?
The only sure thing is that we will look different. I think we’ll have a slightly smaller Air Force but not significantly. We can look forward to AFRC playing a larger role in Cyberspace, Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance as well as the KC-46 program.
Hill AFB was selected as an F-35 basing location due in part to the Total Force association between the 419th FW and its active duty counterpart, the 388th FW. Why are these types of partnerships valuable?
Total Force partnerships like the one here at Hill AFB allow us an extremely efficient way to maximize capability for significantly less cost. Also, the high experience levels and continuity of our reservists have tremendous value. We’re seeing active duty personnel being trained up faster at associated locations, which impacts and increases overall capability and effectiveness. The quicker buildup to proficiency of these young active duty troops also results in overall cost savings.
If you could talk face-to-face with every Airman in AFRC, what would you say?
I would ask that they know what we do and to tell our story. We’re a diverse and effective MAJCOM with strengths of no other component. We’re a crucial piece to the Total Force mix and a solution during these fiscally constrained times.
With the continuing drawdown of active duty personnel, I’d also encourage our people to help recruit those being affected. We want active duty personnel to know there’s a place for them here. The Air Force Reserve is a great option for continued service as we offer a range of flexible statuses in which to serve. We want to capture and retain Airmen for life.
Interview with Chief Master Sgt. Kirksey
Now that you’ve served as AFRC command chief for a year and a half, can you identify the biggest challenges Air Force reservists face?
Our biggest challenge is communication. I don’t think we’ve cracked the code on how information gets from leaders down to the lowest levels, or from the lowest levels to the top. We’re trying to engage leadership to make sure we have an open line of communication, and that Airmen have a platform to voice their concerns.
The next challenge is dealing with the financially constrained environment. People may be wondering what the future holds for them. I encourage people, do not hit the eject button. We’re on the cusp of great things that will highlight our skillsets and talents. We’re a team – we’re going to get through this turbulent time together.
You’ve been visiting Reserve units across the command – how is morale among our Airmen?
Surprisingly, morale in the Air Force Reserve is strong. We are a resilient and mature force, and I attribute that to our leadership and to the resolve of our men and women in uniform. There is uncertainty, but our people are fully charged and ready to get out there and do their nation’s business.
How do you see the Reserve Component Periods deployment schedule affecting employer support of reservists?
Every employer is different. Some employers will be able to easily accommodate a 180-day deployment, while others may find it challenging. Nevertheless, the 1:5 dwell gives employers and families more predictability and the ability to make arrangements while that person is deployed. What I’ve found is that employers are hand over fist supporting our warfighters day in and day out.
When you became command chief, sexual assault awareness was a top priority. Have you seen any positive changes in the Air Force Reserve?
I have. More and more members have found confidence in the system, that it’s working. In large part, we’ve found the majority of sexual assault cases being reported happened prior to the member coming into the military. But they’re coming forward now to get some help because they’ve been given the opportunity, and that’s a positive thing.
You’ve said that you prize being a “servant leader.” Can you explain that?
Servant leadership, from my perspective, is simply taking care of people. At the end of the day, the members that you serve grant you the authority to be their leader. We sit in positions of authority so we can be that attentive ear, that supporting cast, and make sure we address the concerns of our members. Every day I wake up and I’m stoked to be in a position where I can impact the lives of at least 70,000 Citizen Airmen.