“Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the change in the character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after the changes occur.” – Giulio Douhet
Heroes of the Air Force Reserve,
About six months ago, I had the honor of representing our nation at the annual NATO days in the Czech Republic. The primary focus of my visit was to continue to strengthen military-to‑military relationships across the alliance. Foremost in the minds of our allies was increasing Russian aggression. I also sat on a panel to discuss the role of disruptive technology on the nature of warfare.
Since that time, our allies’ concerns about increasing Russian aggression have been validated as Russia invaded its neighbor, Ukraine. We have simultaneously seen the destruction wrought by the Russian military and the courage of everyday Ukrainians, in part due to disruptive technologies like mobile phones and social media. These accounts have shown us the vulnerability of both armor and airpower to smaller, comparably less expensive portable missile systems.
We would do well to learn from the mistakes we see others making now to avoid them in the future. One crucial mistake is underestimating the role of logistics. The Air Force Reserve has proven its mettle in this vital task time and again. Whether it was Operation Allies Refuge to evacuate our allies, humanitarian missions to Ukraine through Denton Humanitarian Assistance Program in 2020, or supplies to Antarctica through Operation Deep Freeze, our mobility Airmen demonstrated exactly why the Total Force trusts us with 20% of its enterprise capacity.
In any contingency environment, whether combat operations or humanitarian assistance, the capacity to surge well-trained personnel is key to ensuring success. In February, I saw the impact of having trained and ready capacity on hand when I visited Task Force Liberty at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. The Reserve Citizen Airmen who were mobilized there ensured that we housed and provided basic needs for more than 11,000 of our Afghan allies, over half of whom were children.
While visiting Task Force Liberty, I also had the honor of meeting Tech. Sgt. Anita Maldonado of the 514th Aerospace Medicine Squadron. One day, while processing Afghan evacuees, she noticed a mother carrying a crying baby. As the mother waited in line with her child, Maldonado heard the child’s cries grow softer. Remembering her training, she signaled to the mother to show her the child. She recognized the infant was in respiratory distress and immediately had him transported to a hospital with neonatal care, saving his life. Maldonado’s story is a reminder that our capacity is not just defined by the number of Airmen, but by their exceptional expertise.
Time and again, we’ve demonstrated our capacity to surge and our rapid accessibility. Part of this accessibility is through our cadre of Mobility Assistants and Reserve Advisors across every combatant and major command. Each MA and RA plays a vital role in forming the connective tissue between their respective active component staff and the Air Force Reserve. Our MAs and RAs at USAFE and EUCOM have been invaluable during the recent conflict — keeping us apprised of potential Air Force Reserve requirements to support joint and allied forces. This awareness allows us to give units additional planning guidance and resources if necessary to prepare for potential contingencies. Because of the relationships that our MAs and RAs have developed, we were also able to better anticipate the need to surge for Operations Allies Refuge and Allies Welcome.
The capacity of the Air Force Reserve also is unique in that it is exceptionally cost-effective. Over the course of a 20‑year career, a Reserve Citizen Airman costs between 33% and 42% of what their active component counterpart does, depending on the number of deployments. This cost-effectiveness maintains the ability to respond as needed while not being excessively burdensome on taxpayers. By minimizing costs, we can also invest in future capabilities that are more resilient against emerging threats empowered by disruptive technology.
Over the past six months, you have repeatedly demonstrated the value proposition of the Air Force Reserve: accessible and cost-effective capacity. The capacity each of you provides is vital to national security. It provides a credible deterrence against our adversaries and reassures our allies. It also saves lives both at home and globally.
I am proud to serve with each of you.