by Col. Bob Thompson
Office of Air Force Reserve Public Affairs
11/3/2011 - WASHINGTON -- The Air Force plans to establish four new jet fighter units to create efficient and effective combat capability in tight budgetary times, according to an announcement Nov. 3.
The Regular Air Force units will associate and collocate with Air Force Reserve Command units at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.; Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla.; Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas; and Whiteman AFB, Mo. The aircraft belong to the Reserve units, and the active-duty Airmen will fly and maintain the aircraft with the reservists at those locations.
"These new units are called active associate units," said Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., chief of Air Force Reserve at the Pentagon. "We partner active-duty and reserve Airmen together and create a powerful synergy that is cost-effective and results in a force that performs both daily operations as well as strategic surges."
The AFRC units at the Barksdale in Bossier City/Shreveport, La., and Whiteman near and Knob Noster, Mo., will continue their focus on the A-10 close-air support aircraft flying mission. Each location will gain 128 active-duty Airmen, who will work with the reservists in the A-10 units.
The Reserve fighter wings at Homestead ARB near Miami and in Fort Worth will continue to fly F-16 fighters. Each location will gain 168 active-duty Airmen who will fly and maintain the F-16s with the reservists at those bases.
In order to capitalize on the most efficient mix of full and part-time positions, the Air Force Reserve will reduce some of its slots whose duties will be filled by the Airmen in the new active-duty units.
"We're going to work closely with our people and give them time to adjust to these changes," Stenner said. "We want to help them understand their options. We're going to set up an employee-assistance database to assist them so we can retain their expertise in the Air Force Reserve whenever possible."
The new units are a result of the Total Force Integration initiative, which capitalizes on the unique strengths of the active and reserve components. The Air Force has more than 150 TFI units across the country where Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard and Regular Air Force Airmen share aircraft, equipment and support responsibilities.
Air Force reservists, known as Citizen Airmen, are trained to meet the same readiness levels as regular component forces. Many of them were previously on active duty and retain valuable military expertise. They provide mission continuity and save taxpayers money because they are called to active duty in a full-time pay status only when the nation needs them. When they are no longer needed, reservists return to their civilian lives and a part-time-pay status.
"As a repository of airpower expertise, our Citizen Airmen are among the most experienced professionals in the Air Force," Stenner said.
Roughly 64 percent of Citizen Airmen are veterans from regular active-duty service. Air Force Reserve officers average 18 years of experience and enlisted members have been in the service an average of 13 years. That is compared to 11 years and eight years for Regular Air Force officers and enlisted members, respectively.
"Associate units are considered a 'win-win' for the nation," Stenner said. "The younger active-duty Airmen receive mentoring and continuity from the highly experienced reservists. Together, the active duty and reserve Airmen give our nation a powerful combat capability, which is efficient, cost-effective and ready now."
Note: In case of the A-10C Thunderbolt II it seems like the 442nd Fighter Wing at Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and the 917th Fighter Group at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, each will get an active associated unit in which Regular Air Force Airmen will train with reservists on the close-air support aircraft.
On the other hand, as a subordinate unit of the 442nd Fighter Wing the 476th Fighter Group is located at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, with the 76th Fighter Squadron, the 476th Maintenance Squadron and the 476th Medical Flight. The 917th Fighter Group at Barksdale is also subordinated to the 442nd Fighter Wing.
BTW: This post will be further updated.