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AF extends 14k mobilized Guard, Reserve members

by Staff Sgt. A.J. Bosker
Air Force Print News

08/16/02 - WASHINGTON -- The Air Force will be extending the mobilization of more than 14,000 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members into a second year because of the continuing requirements of operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom.

The plan is to keep these people mobilized just long enough for the active force to realign manpower so that requirements created by the war against terror can be supported by a more predictable steady state process, said John C. Truesdell, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Reserve Affairs at the Pentagon.

Despite these tour extensions, Air Force leaders are committed to demobilizing these people as soon as possible, Truesdell said.

There are several initiatives currently underway to transform the active duty force structure to alleviate its stressed career fields and tailor it to meet the new 21st century requirements. These initiatives seek to free up active duty airmen from nonmilitary-essential tasks and use those assets in stressed specialties such as security forces.

Nearly 67 percent of the air reserve component members who are having their tours extended are filling security forces requirements, Truesdell said.

The Air Force has not been able to meet the increased security forces requirements from within the active duty force and the continued support of the Guard and Reserve is crucial to protecting the force.

"Senior Air Force leaders understand the concerns this announcement may create among extended air reserve component members and one action they are taking is to seek legislative relief in two bills introduced to Congress," Truesdell said.

"The first bill seeks congressional approval to authorize the Air Force to contract out certain administrative security forces functions to reduce the number of positions that must be filled by active duty or (reserve) security forces," he said. "The companion amendment, if passed, would allow active Guard and Reserve tours from the Air Force Reserve to be used for security forces functions."

These two bills aren't a cure-all, Truesdell said, but combined with ongoing initiatives, they will help bring down the number of people who must be extended through their second year and, hopefully, return some predictability back to Guard and Reserve members.

"This predictability is important if we hope to retain our people, their families and the employers," Truesdell said.

"We are working hard to constantly improve our communication with the many audiences involved with this war effort, especially our people, their families, employers and every member of Congress. The operative word here is 'retention.' We want our whole team to know that we really appreciate all that they've done for us already but that we still need their continued support to finish the job.

"We want to retain our Guard and Reserve members and must give them the predictability in their lives they deserve. We know they are patriotic and want to serve the country but we also understand that reality rears its ugly head and they have to pay a mortgage or return to their roles in the civilian sector."

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