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What is the Air Force Reserve?

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  • Written By: K. Martin-Browne
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  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2016
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The United States Air Force Reserve is a Major Command of the active duty United States Air Force, working alongside the Air Force to fulfill its mission: the defense of the United States "through control and exploitation of air, space and cyberspace by supporting Global Engagement.” Established as a Field Operating Agency of the Air Force on 14 April 1948 by U.S. president Harry Truman, the Air Force Reserve began as a stand-by reserve force for emergencies only. On 17 February 1997, however, as a result of Title XII of the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 1997, the Air Force Reserve became a Major Command of the Air Force. As a result of this change, members of the Reserve work with the same equipment on many of the same missions as active duty Air Force members. Unlike active duty Air Force members, however, members of the Reserve serve in their own city and often can continue their civilian careers or be college students while serving.

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As of June 2010, the Air Force Reserve had about 67,500 members, 23 percent of whom were officers. The majority of these members were traditional Reservists who serve one weekend per month and two weeks per year. There are three Reserve categories: Ready Reserve, consisting of those Reservists who are combat ready and may be recalled to active duty; Standby Reserve, made up of Reservists whose civilian jobs are considered crucial to national defense, who have temporary disability or who have a personal hardship; and Retired Reserve, those Reservists on retirement pay. Individual Mobilization Augmentees (IMAs) are members of the Reserve who serve approximately 24 days per year at various locations around the world. IMAs usually are former members of the active duty Air Force and serve to supplement active-duty units.

In addition to these part-time jobs, the Air Force Reserve offers several full-time positions, including Air Reserve Technicians (ARTs) and the Active Guard Reserve. ARTs, who make up more than 15 percent of the force, are members of the Civil Service System who provide daily leadership, administrative and logistical support to the Reserve. The Active Guard Reserve is made up of Reserve members who have been ordered to work at their Reserve job on a full-time basis.

The Air Force Reserve consists of 33 flying wings and seven groups under three numbered Air Forces: the 4th Air Force, the 10th Air Force and the 22nd Air Force. These Forces are under the control of Air Force Reserve Command and are headquartered in the Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. The Commander of the Air Force Reserve Command reports to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, subordinate to the Secretary of the Air Force, followed by the Secretary of Defense and finally the Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States. The Chief of the Air Force Reserve reports to the Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff and is qualified to testify directly to Congress.

The Air Force Reserve has facilities at 67 locations, including five Air Reserve Bases. It uses 13 kinds of aircraft and, as of June 2010, had 447 aircraft assigned to it. It shares many of its missions, including airlift, tanker, intel, training, air operations command, bomber and fighter missions, with the active duty Air Force; in fact, the Reserve performs approximately 20 percent of the Air Force’s daily missions. Additionally, the Reserve provides about 65 percent of Air Force medical evacuation capability. Along with these shared missions, the Reserve operates many unique missions, including aerial firefighting, aerial spray and weather reconnaissance.

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