Total Force concepts support long-term operational success

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Douglas A. Stouffer
  • 5th Flying Training Squadron commander
Do you know that Vance has a squadron of Air Force Reserve Instructor Pilots who train student pilots in support of the 71st Flying Training Wing's mission?

Many do not. Along with Laughlin, Columbus, Sheppard and Randolph Air Force Bases and the Air Force Academy, Vance is part of the Integrated Associate Instructor Pilot Program.

Each base has a Reserve associate squadron whose function is to provide experienced IPs to augment Air Education and Training Command's mission at that base. The 5th FTS is somewhat unique to Vance in that it is made up of IPs from all three types of Vance aircraft, the T-1A Jayhawk, T-6A Texan II and T-38 Talon.

There are three types of Reserve IPs assigned to Vance. Of the 92 IP positions in the 5th FTS, 66 are traditional Reservists.

A TR is not a full-time IP and switches between military status and civilian status. They have full time careers as airline, corporate and cargo pilots, business owners, school teachers, simulator instructors, stay at home parents, students and federal government pilots and employees.

Additionally, one half of the 5th does not even live in Enid.

They live on the west coast, the east coast, and everywhere in between.

In a standard Reserve unit the commitment to the military is one weekend a month and two weeks a year for a total of 39 days per year. AETC has a much higher requirement. Each TR instructor pilot is required to be at Vance for a minimum of six days per month for a total of at least 72 days per year.

During this time, Vance TRs will leave their families and civilian jobs to travel to Enid, Oklahoma, and instruct student pilots.

When they are working as a TR they receive military compensation; when they are not on a military status they do not receive military pay or health benefits. This concept provides the AF with the ability to retain and maintain fully qualified instructors, but at a significant cost savings when compared to a full-time salary Airmen with health insurance.

The Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, hopes to leverage this cost factor for the benefit of the total force.

"In the future, we hope to garner enough savings by moving capability and capacity to the Reserve Component so that future end-strength cuts may not be necessary," said James in a DOD news release April 30, 2014, that discussed total force balance. 

The second type of Reserve IP at Vance is an Active Guard and Reserve, popularly called an AGR.

These IPs are full-time military members and most closely resemble the active duty members assigned to Vance. One major difference is that, if desired, an AGR can remain at one base for a long period of time and is not forced to move every couple of years.

The third type of Reserve IP at Vance is an Air Reserve Technician, popularly called an ART. These IPs are full-time federal government general schedule civilian employees whose civilian job title is a flight instructor.

They are also TRs who will work in part-time military status as an IP in addition to their civilian status. As a result, both their civilian and military duties are to instruct student pilots. Their civilian and military positions are paired together and both are required for that person to be an ART.

All Reserve IPs at Vance are assigned to the Air Force Reserve Command and not to Air Education and Training Command as are most active duty Airmen stationed here.

Based on the initial construct put in place by AETC and AFRC, all members must have prior military flying experience before they can join the unit as a captain, major, or lieutenant colonel.

This means that a brand new Reserve lieutenant cannot immediately join the 5th and begin a career.

Conversely, this also means that 5th members have a lot of aviation experience, and most have years if not decades in the pilot training environment.

At Vance Reservists are fully integrated into almost every aspect of the operations portion of the pilot training mission.

The 71st FTW commander's strategic intent is to capitalize on the talents and diversity of the total force to enrich the training environment.

The vast experience of 5th FTS Reservists is one key component to this total force diversity and is vital to ensuring the 71st FTW continues to deliver world class U.S. and allied pilots.