Reserve Airmen Seen As Valuable to Space, Cyber Missions (Updated)
That command is one of three Air Forces under the service’s reserve command, consisting of 10 air wings responsible for everything from flying B-52 bombers to space and cyber operations. Speaking at the Air Force Association’s 2012 Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition, Rizzuti advocated for the inclusion of reserve forces at a time when they and the Air National Guard are poised to absorb the bulk of a 10,000-personnel reduction proposed in the Pentagon's fiscal year 2013 budget.
“Especially in the areas of space and cyber, the reserves bring a lot to the table above and beyond those efficiencies we find in personnel cuts,” she said. “Often it’s the reservist who is the most experienced on the operations floor. Our folks are part-time warriors who have jobs in the civilian community and the expertise that they bring to the table when they put on their uniform to come and serve is absolutely invaluable to us.”
Air Force leaders have plans to inflict a majority of the $9 billion in cuts on the Reserves and Air National Guard. Rizzuti refused to second-guess the Defense Department’s force-structure recommendations, but said the budget proposal was put together with input from Reserve commanders.
Reservists have worked alongside their active-duty counterparts in nearly every aspect of Air Force operations for the better part of 10 years, transitioning from “weekend warriors” to fully integrated part-time airmen. They have their fingers in many pies still.
Rizzuti called her command “the most diverse organization that we have in the military today.” As one of three reserve air forces, it has on its roster all reserve fighter jet units, command and control operations, special operations, tactical airlift, operational test and evaluation, combat search and rescue, all of the reserves’ remotely piloted aircraft, not to mention cyber and space activities.
“I believe that all three components will be viable into the future and I think the Air Force thought carefully through the mission sets that we have to do,” she said.
Total force integration, the inclusion of active, Reserve and National Guard units, is key to the cost-efficient future of the Air Force, Rizzuti said.
Reservists “bring continuity” as the service’s active-duty force turns over, she said. In space and cyber realms, particularly, reservists often have the same or similar occupations in civilian life as they do when in uniform. They therefore offer a steady stream of engineering and information technology innovations learned in the commercial world that are immediately transferable to military application.
“It’s a huge benefit to have that kind of expertise on the floor,” she said. “These folks come in and they’re already spun up [on the latest technologies] and they bring cutting edge ideas about how to do things better.”
Within the 10th Air Force, those two missions areas, especially, are expanding, she added.
“Just about all the missions that are growing right now are within the Air Force Reserve are under the 10th Air Force,” she said.
In 2008, the first reserve space wing was created at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado, by pulling existing cyber-warfare squadrons under one command structure. Its missions include control of GPS satellite constellations, infrared, missile warning, support to the Joint Space Operation Center, and weather satellites, among others.
Rizzuti hopes to follow the same model to establish a new reserve cyber warfare unit, the 960th Cyber Group at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
“We see an opportunity, as cyber grows, to expand that into a wing structure like we did for the space mission,” she said.
Missions in “proactive defense” and “persistent operations” in the cyber realm are expected to be in high demand, she said, though could not offer many specifics as to how those objectives are achieved.
The 10th Air Force also is focused on establishing survivable satellite communications, space-based infrared sensors for missile detection and tracking, “offensive space control” and overall situational awareness, Rizzuti said.
Correction: Brig. Gen. Karen Rizzuti was misidentified as "commander" rather than her correct title, "vice commander."
Photo Credits: Air Force