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«INTRODUCTION I am not an expert on military manpower, nor am I an academic like many who presented papers in this symposium. Perhaps I was asked to ...»

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4Departments of the Army and Air Force, National Guard Bureau, National Guard Bureau Annual Review Fiscal Year 1989, Washington, D.C., 1989.

5Citizen Airmen: A History of the Air Force Reserve 1946–1994, Gerald T. Cantwell, Air Force History and Museums Program, 1997, p. 2.

6Ibid., p. 7.

168 Emerging Threats, Force Structures, and the Role of Air Power in Korea Reserve annually increased in numbers, it was not stable between the wars.7 World War II required an all-out mobilization. What reserve and national guard existed were brought into active service with some difficulty and disorientation. During 1940 and 1941, the frantic efforts to integrate regulars and reservists, guardsmen, and draftees created problems: (1) morale was low; (2) guardsmen complained about the extension of their active tours beyond one year; (3) draftees felt discriminated against in the National Guard units to which they had been assigned; and (4) National Guard units resented having officers from other components assigned over them.8 After World War II President Truman and Chief of Staff George C.

Marshall were concerned that a drop in military preparedness like that following World War I would occur.

Recalling U.S. behavior after World War I, Marshall believed the voters would reject a large peacetime military establishment. He was also certain that advanced technology would deny the United States much time to prepare for another major war. His solution was to have well-trained National Guard and reserve components fed by a system of universal military training.9 The National Guard’s post–World War II reinstatement as the Army’s first line reserve component was the compromise committed to by General Marshall in exchange for the Guard’s endorsement of universal military training. Maj. Gen. Ellard A. Walsh, president of the National Guard Association, gave his public support to universal training during the Woodrum Committee hearings in June 1945.

General Marshall reciprocated by advocating the guard as the second line of defense.10 However, while the National Guard was being supported by this compromise, the Air Reserve program was susceptible to budget re

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ductions because Army Air Force officials could not, or would not, defend its importance.11 In 1947 a commission studied the civilian components of the military. It noted that the Air Force had given reserve pilots the opportunity to maintain flight proficiency, but then largely negated the effort by failing to give them the aircraft to fly. Moreover, it had done little to maintain the efficiency of its non-flying reserve personnel.

The commission regarded the Air Force Reserve composite units as ineffective because they lacked a comprehensive training plan, and it criticized the Air Force because it gave a little training to many people rather than concentrating its efforts on an essential hard core.12 By 1950, things had not changed much. In December 1950 a review concluded, “Because the Air Force lacked proper plans for its reserve forces, its concepts for the organization and development of reserve forces were faulty.” 13


Then in 1950 the Korean war threw 193,000 civilian airmen into service. On July 7, the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved the Air Force’s projected deployment of units to the Far East. As General Vandenberg, the Chief of Staff, later observed, the United States Air Force in 1950 was “a shoestring air force.” The active duty establishment’s cupboard was bare, and to satisfy the needs of the war, it had to call upon the Air Force Reserve.14 However, the reserve units were not prepared for mobilization.

Reservists had to be called on an individual basis. Two problems dominated the mobilization of organized units. One was that orders had to be given to reorganize the units concurrently with their mobilization. The other was the poor condition of individual records.

Many reservists could not be located because of out-of-date files.

Airmen’s records often contained incomplete forms. Many files were ______________

11Ibid., p. 35.

12Ibid., p. 60.

13Ibid., p. 85.

14Ibid., p. 90.

170 Emerging Threats, Force Structures, and the Role of Air Power in Korea missing, and one mobilized unit had files for hundreds of people not assigned to it.

Many airmen, both those who had been active in reserve units and those who had not, did not want to be mobilized for this unpopular war. Using the accepted reasons to merit exemption, reservists of mobilized units called in by the hundreds to claim ineligibility and request delays because of suddenly acquired dependents, critical job status, and ailments they had never had before.15 The breaking up of reserve units upon mobilization evoked a flurry of protest from the reservists and from congressmen representing the states in which the units were located. 16 The Air Force hesitated to withdraw manpower from the organized units of the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard, the only trained augmentation resource available. Therefore, the individual replacements to satisfy demands of the first phase of the Korean War as well as expansion requirements, came from reservists who had not been participating in any organized program. The unfairness of this circumstance aroused great bitterness among affected reservists and became the occasion for subsequent congressional legislation. 17


In the presidential campaign of 1952, Dwight Eisenhower criticized the Truman Administration’s reserve program. Upon election, Eisenhower appointed a commission to study the need for military strength, both the regular and the reserves. In 1954 the administration, after a great deal of political maneuvering, developed the National Reserve Plan, which was passed as the Reserve Forces Act of 1955. Late in 1955, the Air Force published Reserve Mobilization Recall Requirements. This provided for the Continental Air Command, which began to develop the reserve force into a combat-ready mobilization asset.

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The structure and vision of an effective reserve program were in place, and many people spent numerous hours on its implementation. Now the president and the Congress had new options when faced with a national interest conflict.

The first test of the new reserve program came in 1961 when the Russians blockaded Berlin.

The Assistant Air Force Chief of Staff for reserves testified before the

House Armed Services committee:

All things considered, the mobilization of Air Reserve Forces in October 1961 was accomplished with a minimum of confusion and compromise with requirements. The total Air Reserve Forces recall significantly augmented the Air Force at a time when the cupboard was otherwise bare—a 17 percent augmentation in troop carrier forces, 28 percent in heavy transport, 28 percent in tactical reconnaissance, and 37 percent in tactical fighter strength.18 A second test of the concept came in October of 1962 when President Kennedy confronted Khrushchev over the missiles being shipped to Cuba. Suddenly there was a need for shifting military units to the southeastern states. Eighty C-119s flew 1,232 hours the weekend of October 12th. The buildup of forces in the southeast had begun.

More than 40 Navy ships involved got under way October 15th. At scattered posts, 40,000 Marines were loaded on ships heading toward the Caribbean to augment the 5,000 at Guantanamo Bay. The Army gathered more than 100,000 troops in Florida. Strategic Air Command bombers left Florida airfields to make room for tactical fighters flown in from bases all over the country. Activating the reserves involved much more than just political posturing.

Robert Kennedy recalled, “I returned to the White House. The President was not optimistic, nor was I. He ordered twenty-four troop carrier squadrons of the Air Force Reserve to active duty. They would be necessary for an invasion. He had not abandoned hope, but what hope there was now rested with Khrushchev’s revision of his course within the next few hours. It was a hope, not an ______________

18Ibid., pp. 182–183.

172 Emerging Threats, Force Structures, and the Role of Air Power in Korea expectation. The expectation was a military confrontation by Tuesday and possibly tomorrow (Sunday).”19 In evaluating the performance of the reserve at this call up, it was said, The Air Force Reserve did absolutely all that was asked of it between October 13 and December 29, 1962. It augmented the active force in assembling material in the southeastern corner of the country.

When the President thought he might need an invasion force and the Department of Defense mobilized Air Force Reserve troop carrier units as essential to the task, they responded quickly and were prepared to do their part. Then individual crew members stayed on to help redeploy the assembled force.20


Before Kennedy had become president in 1961, the United States had become involved in Vietnam. The United States had tried to stabilize the government and train its military forces to subdue internal guerrilla activity by the Viet Cong and resist invasion from North Vietnam. The north had declared their intention to extend the “national democratic revolution” to South Vietnam and unify Vietnam under the communist regime. lowly but steadily over the next thirteen years, the involvement of the United States in the conflict escalated. But the United States did not mobilize reservists for use in Southeast Asia before 1968, and when it did mobilize, relatively few were called because Lyndon B. Johnson did not wish to do so. By refusing to make very extensive use of the reserve forces during the Vietnam War, President Johnson allowed the reserves to be viewed as a draft avoidance haven, and the active force came to distrust their availability in a crisis.21 As the war in Southeast Asia subsided, the Air Force passed more modern equipment to the Air Reserve Forces and included the reserve in force planning as part of the total Air Force. By 1973, the ______________

19Robert F. Kennedy, Thirteen Days (New York), 1969, p. 109.

20Op. Cit., Cantwell, p. 192.

21Ibid., pp 198–199.

Maximizing Manpower Utilization 173 Department of Defense had expanded the Air Force’s Total Force concept into departmental policy. 22 The 1970s and 1980s saw a further developing and refining of the total force concept. The Reagan administration’s military strategy was to have sufficient military strength to convince our friends to stay closely aligned with us and to convince the Soviets they could not win any war they might start against us or our allies. The defense buildup of the early 1980s affected the Air Force Reserve in many ways. The Air Force followed through on the force modernization commitment which was central to “Total Force.”


Another opportunity to test the total force preparedness came in 1989 in the Panama military action. During the six weeks of “Just Cause,” Air Force Reserve units flew a total of 621 sorties and more than 1,500 hours in direct support of the operation. They moved more than 5,000 passengers and 1.385 tons of cargo. Tankers delivered more than 1.1 million pounds of aviation fuel to 18 receivers. In combat operation they expended 220 rounds of 40-mm and 2,000 rounds of 20-mm ammunition. 23


It was Desert Shield/Storm which stands as the largest test of the total force concept. Mobilization began August 9, 1990, one week after Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, and reached its peak in March 1991.

Even when the war ended in April 1991, the use of reserves continued until late June when most reservists had been demobilized.

In August, reserve unit commanders began to ask members which personnel might be available to serve as volunteers if they were needed. By August 20, more than 15,300 had volunteered to serve, about 22 percent of all Air Force Reservists. Although many reservists served as volunteers throughout the war, the Department of ______________

22Ibid., p. 347.

23Ibid., pp. 362–363.

174 Emerging Threats, Force Structures, and the Role of Air Power in Korea Defense soon realized it needed the authority to recall portions of its reserve components to support the rapidly expanding commitment of forces in the Persian Gulf. President Bush authorized the call-up of 200,000 reservists for 90 days. Under this authority, by March 12th 23,500 Air Force Reservists were called to active duty. Of these, more than 20,000 were assigned to 215 reserve units, 2,300 were individual mobilization augmentees, and 960 were members of the individual Ready Reserve or retired reserve.24 Evaluations of the effectiveness of reservists called to active duty during the Gulf War found performance was quite satisfactory.

There were factors that made this conflict rather unique. At that period of time, the United States was at a state of high military preparedness, and many of the combat and support formations came from active forces deployed in Europe, which were at a point of being reduced as the Cold War wound down. There was an extended period of time during which the United States was able to build up forces. There were support infrastructures in Saudi Arabia and Turkey which were available, and the war was very short and losses were slight. A senior U.S. commander said, “Desert Storm was the perfect war with the perfect enemy.... We had the perfect coalition, the perfect infrastructure, and the perfect battlefield. We should be careful about the lessons we draw from the war.”25 Each of the Services and their reserve components had notable successes. The Army was very successful in deploying and using CS/CSS (combat support/combat service support) units. The Air Force proved the utility of its associate units, the readiness of its reserve fighter force, and its ability to integrate reserve aircraft squadrons into deployed wings. The Navy’s Selected Reserve structure facilitated the call-up of medical personnel with specialized skills. The Marine Corps’ ability to integrate company-sized units into its total deployed force was impressive. 26 Judged by most criteria, the Air Force was the best service component in accomplishing reserve mobilization and augmentation.

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