If General Washington could see us now

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Paul "Unk" Tom
  • 5th Flying Training Squadron commander
Gen. George Washington was quoted, "If I was called upon to declare upon oath, whether the Militia have been most serviceable or hurtful upon the whole; I should subscribe to the latter."

Not a very stirring endorsement. But as the nation has changed, so has the quality and dedication of the Militia. More than 200 years of American warfare has necessitated the service of citizen soldiers which has led to the transformation of their role in our current regular military forces.

The citizen Airman model has changed considerably since the inception of the Air Force Reserves on April 14, 1948. The reserve Airmen at Vance AFB exemplify the Total Force Integration, generating efficiency and cost savings by sharing resources and providing contingency surge capability. TFI has become an integral part of our nation's war-fighting capability.

The 5th Flying Training Squadron at Vance AFB is home to more than 100 Air Force Reserve Command personnel, made up primarily of instructor pilots. The mission of the 5th FTS is to administer and execute the Air Education and Training Command/AFRC Associate Instructor Pilot program and provide IPs to augment the cadre of active duty pilots conducting pilot training.

During wartime, or in the event of hostilities, the unit is mobilized to offset anticipated losses of experienced active duty pilot contributions to the instructor pilot training programs.

The two types of reservists at Vance are Active Guard Reservists who serve full-time, much like any active duty member, and traditional reservists who serve on a part-time basis. The traditional reservist represents the classic citizen soldier who normally maintains a full-time civilian job as their primary source of income.

Most traditional reserve pilots in the 5th FTS hold occupations such as airline or corporate pilots, simulator instructors and business professionals. These individuals put in a tremendous amount of time to serve their civilian employers as well as the military.

A typical airline pilot works 15 days a month with three days of commute time depending on where they reside. Add another six to eight days of Air Force reserve participation and you have only four to six days off any given month.

Many of our traditional reservists live outside Oklahoma and are essentially on temporary duty when serving at Vance AFB. What I find impressive and humbling is the sacrifice of time with their families that our citizen Airmen dedicate to serve the 71st Flying Training Wing and the Air Force mission.

In the last 10 years, Total Force Initiative has transformed the reserves from a ready-reserve force to an operational component that is continuously training, mobilizing, integrating and accomplishing the mission side by side with our active duty components.

Air Force Reserve units account for approximately 35 percent of the Total Force. AFRC provides 46 percent of strategic airlift and 60 percent of aeromedical evacuation services. Additionally, AFRC provides 100 percent of weather reconnaissance, more than 54 percent of the aerial port capability and 19 percent of flying training missions in AETC.

Our colonial army would certainly not recognize the capability of the modern citizen soldier. However, what the reservists of today and militia of the past all have in common are the enduring qualities of service and patriotism. When a civilian gives up personal safety, potentially higher wages and time with family, I can only surmise that the intrinsic rewards of military service do outweigh the sacrifice of their endeavor.

With sincere respect, if General Washington could see us now, I believe his opinion would most certainly be different.