Activated or not, all are critical to Afghanistan plus-up mission

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Craig LaFave
  • 326th AS commander
Welcome to the Afghanistan troop build-up and the start of a long spring and summer. By now, you've hopefully in-processed, completed final training requirements and are ready to get down to the business at hand.

Although we do have a tight timeline to deliver forces and their equipment into Afghanistan, one thing is for certain: Safety and sound judgement are not waived. We must be smart about our battle rhythms, procedures and fatigue countermeasures. As our risk management profiles hit the moderate and perhaps even higher range in the summer heat, we must remain vigilant to safety challenges, whether on the flightline, at the squadron or off duty.

For those of you wondering why this activation is happening now, the answer is simple - you are part of a critical piece of Air Force Reserve Command called the operational Reserve, and the regular Air Force cannot cover all of the airlift requirements this summer.

This mission requirement was levied on Air Mobility Command from the supported Central Command Commander General David H. Petraeus through the Secretary of Defense. General Raymond E. Johns Jr., AMC commander, asked Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., our AFRC commander, to cover a capability gap that existed in the plan. AFRC guaranteed it would fill that gap with mobilization authority in case volunteers were not sufficient.

Some have hoped that AFRC would immediately move to mobilize our forces instead of asking for volunteers first in order to provide "top cover" when we give our civilian employers a set of orders. That wouldn't have been the best course of action, as volunteerism has many advantages over mobilization. Take for example the ability to rotate personnel on shorter tour lengths when volunteering versus losing that option under mobilization. That in itself is a huge advantage that allows some of us to have a semi-normal summer and return to our employers sooner. And yes, pay and benefits are virtually identical under both scenarios.

Remember, too, that we are all volunteers when we enlisted or took the oath. We must be ready and willing to serve beyond one weekend per month when a validated requirement is levied upon us. At some point this fall, we will have fulfilled our required taskings and return to our families and employers as strategic reservists. General Stenner has said we must be both an operational and a strategic Reserve force - a real challenge in today's volatile and uncertain international scene.

Our volunteerism leading up to this point has been unrivaled, and I am particularly proud of those stepping up whether by volunteering or by mobilization. For those Airmen not mobilized this summer, you are just as critical to our fight as you represent an added capability in case other world events require even more forces. Get your rest; you will be needed.

You should all be proud , operational and strategic reservists, that you are making a major contribution to the troop build-up that will turn the tide in Afghanistan. Now, let's get down to work. Let's fly, fight and win.