Air Force Reserve Council gets to work at AFA symposium

  • Published
  • By RE Public Affairs

The Air Force Reserve Council hosted its first in-person meeting in two years during the Air Force Association Warfighting Symposium here March 2.

The council, made up of Reserve Citizen Airmen representing all statuses and ranks, is charged with identifying quality-of-life issues that affect Reservists and Air Force Reserve Command.

While the combination of COVID restrictions and the stand-down of Department of Defense advisory committees took a toll on the council’s momentum, its new senior mentor, Brig. Gen. Vanessa Dornhoefer, is reenergizing efforts by identifying and prioritizing top issues and goals, generating recommendations to Air Force Reserve leadership, and re-engaging the broader coalition.

“As the new senior mentor to the AFR Council, my goal is to empower and support each of our council members by taking on issues that they are passionate about fixing and ensure they have the resources they need to engage and advocate on behalf of our fellow Citizen Airmen,” Dornhoefer, who serves as the mobilization assistant to the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering and force protection, said.

The council helps develop legislative and policy recommendations addressing quality-of-life, equipment modernization and military construction issues that affect the Air Force Reserve. Through engagements and data collection at the local unit level, the council identifies and prioritizes potential challenges to issues driven by statutory requirements, researches and prepares background information papers, and provides recommendations for consideration by Reserve senior leaders.

“As an individual mobilization augmentee, I encountered more than my fair share of challenges, and I wanted to address them so Reservists coming after me have the best experience possible,” said Maj. Philip Caruso, a council member who serves as a United Nations U.S. Mission deputy military advisor. “In a challenging recruiting environment, and with the obligations we have to our Airmen, it is critical that we support them with the tools they need and make it as easy as possible to serve while offering as many development opportunities as we can.”

The council also provides recommendations on policy issues impacting members of the Reserve component, responds to Air Force Reserve requests for study, evaluation and/or recommendations on issues affecting Reservists, and performs other duties assigned by the chief of the Air Force Reserve.

“Many of the issues we face as Reservists are challenging ones, with some requiring inter-service coordination, changes in policy or even legislative action,” Caruso said. “But with persistence and innovation, I believe we can find ways around many of the challenges we face, even if it takes years of dedication and perseverance.”

In recent years, the council has worked on creating a maintenance manning matrix for Air Reserve Technician hiring, streamlining Thrift Savings Plan matching back pay for members returning from deployment, and promoting Active Guard Reserve tour and incentive pay and bonus parity.

“We are working on the issues that impact the majority of Air Reserve Component members and we are trying to make them better,” said council member Master Sgt. Ernesto Compean, a maintenance analyst with the 433rd Airlift Wing, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

The council is a powerful advocate that can share personal stories of Reserve Citizen Airmen to better help leaders understand the unintended consequences of legislation, policy and budgetary decisions on the Reserve component.

“The biggest strength of the Air Force Reserve Council is Airmen advocating for Airmen across all statuses,” Dornhoefer said. “Our AFR Council is in a unique position to call attention to quality-of-life and readiness issues that affect the entire Reserve component while working across the many organizations that shape and influence policy and legislation.”

Reserve Citizen Airmen are encouraged to contact any of the council members listed below or email the Reserve Council at with policy or legislative initiatives they think can help improve the force.

  • Col. Josh McConkey, 155th Air Refueling Wing, Lincoln, Nebraska.
  • Lt. Col. Mary Lent, 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group, Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
  • Lt. Col. Kevin Snow, 70th Air Refueling Squadron, Travis AFB, California.
  • Maj. John O’Donnell, U.S. Space Force Headquarters, the Pentagon.
  • Maj. Philip Caruso, United Nations, New York City, New York.
  • Chief Master Sgt. Charles Holt, 514th Mission Support Group, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
  • Master Sgt. Davonea Walls, AFRC Headquarters, Robins AFB, Georgia.
  • Master Sgt. Ernesto Compean, 433rd Maintenance Group, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
  • Tech. Sgt. Kayla Cacicia, 326th Airlift Squadron, Dover AFB, Delaware.