70 Years of Reserve Citizen Airpower

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Lisa Furgeson, 442d Fighter Wing Command Chief
  • 442d Fighter Wing

14 April 1948, the date that the Air Force Reserve was born. But did you know, the Reserve program actually began with the Preparedness Movement and the National Defense Act of 1916 that established the Organized Reserve Corps. Maj. Gen. George Squier proclaimed it to be the most important section of that NDA. His goal was to obtain technically experienced men to organize and train during peacetime, and be available as needed in times of war. In 1918, the last American Ace of World War I, Lt. Charles D’Olive, was an officer in the Signal Officers Reserve Corps. After World War I, the program languished and declined. It was not until President Harry Truman worked to revitalize the program, did things really start happening.  His vision was to have Reservists standing by, ready to serve as replacements, during times of war. He formally established the Air Force Reserve on 14 April 1948.

In 1950, the AF Reserve consisted of over 315,800 non-drilling and nearly 58,500 drilling Reservists in combat units. Then the Korean War started, and the Air Force mobilized nearly 147,000 Reservists for 1 – 3 year periods of duty. A lot happened in the ‘50s, the ART program was born, the Ready, Standby, and Retired Reserve categories were established, and legislation allowing the President to mobilize a portion of the Ready Reserve to Active Duty without advanced congressional notification was enacted. The ‘60s had the Berlin and Cuban Crises, which the Reserve fully supported with thousands of Reservists in a variety of roles. Towards the end of the ‘60s, the Vietnam War kicked off and the Reserve forces were brought to bear. Fewer mobilizations were used, as more Reservists volunteered to perform their Annual Tour, inactive duty, and an additional 36 days of inactive duty to support the War effort until it ended. 1968 also introduced the first associate unit concept by having Reserve personnel associate with an active duty unit of C-141s or C-9s.

In 1973, the Total Force concept was signed into policy by the SECDEF. This meant that the Air Force Reserve was now held to the same standards for readiness and inspections as regular Active Duty units. Special Ops, air refueling, weather reconnaissance, and once again, fighter missions were added to the current airlift, rescue, and mission support roles. The associate concept expanded to include C-5s. This was a big change for the Reserve, and they spent a huge portion of their time in the ‘70s perfecting these new roles and exercise requirements. The ‘80s gave the Reserve more modernization and expansion as the KC-10s joined the associate program and the first F-16 was delivered to the Reserve. The Reserve supported Grenada operations in 1983, air refueling during the El Dorado Canon raid in ’86, and partnered in Operation Just Cause ousting Noriega in ’89-’90. Man were we busy!

Then in ’90, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Air Force Reserve A-10s were brought in to the front lines, along with Reserve Special Ops and rescue forces. A Reservist scored the first-ever A-10 air-to-air kill, how awesome is that! We continued to support the follow-on actions after the end of Desert Storm, enforcing no-fly zones, humanitarian efforts, and Provide Comfort missions. The Air Force reliance on the Reserve just kept increasing to remain “steady-state”. This led to the Reserve becoming the Air Force Reserve Command, the 9th major command, in February of 1997. We continued to show our worth, year over year.

11 September 2001, a day we will never forget. The very next month, Reserve MC-130 Combat Talon aircraft were the first fixed-wing to enter Afghan airspace, while Reserve F-16 crews performed the first combat missions. We also provided B-52, special ops, aeromedical, security forces, and civil engineering on a continuing basis. To this day, as we well know, Reserve A-10s, HH-60s, and C-130s are still supporting this effort. In 2003, Reserve rescue personnel were among the first into Tallil Air Base as Reserve A-10s provided close air support. The Reserve tankers and C-17s were hard at work at the same time. We’ve continued to expand our role into UAV support and space-based operations in Southwest Asia, showing there isn’t anything we can’t do. Associate units are now everywhere, F-22s, C-40s, and C-5s added to the list. Of course we have our great Active Duty counter-parts here at the 442d, 358th you rock!

Our history is amazing, we have done so much and come so far since our inception. Through our continuous adapting, changing, growing, and responding, the Air Force Reserve has truly evolved into an operational reserve force to be reckoned with. Dedicated Citizen-Reservists provide the world's best mutual support to the Air Force and our joint partners--to provide combat-ready forces to fly, fight and win…but we at the 442d do it with style!