COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Faced with a DoD-wide mandate to reduce full-time uniformed personnel, U.S. Air Force Space Command plans to increase the number of reservists it uses to help provide space capabilities to deployed forces.
Air Force Space Command currently has 142 reservists working in a full-time capacity and 1,194 working part-time, according to Col. Roscoe Griffin, director of reserve forces at the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based command. Those numbers are expected to grow to 311 and 1,694, respectively, by 2010, Griffin said in an April 9 interview at Air Force Space Command’s Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., headquarters.
The Air Force currently has about 341,000 active duty personnel. That figure is expected to drop to 334,000 by September and to 316,000 by the end of 2009. The reductions are part of an effort to reduce the Air Force’s active duty roster by 40,000 — a process that began in 2006, according to Capt. Tom Wenz, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon.
As that process moves forward the number of roster of active duty personnel at Air Force Space Command is expected to drop from 18,554 today to 16,542 by 2010, according to Lt. Sandra Seidel, an Space Command spokeswoman.
Part-time reservists represent a cost efficient way for the Air Force to reduce full time billets while still maintaining needed capabilities, Griffin said.
Air Force Space Command, for example, can call in reservists during an emergency, as has happened with reservists of the 6th Space Operations Squadron, who have been activated on an emergency basis 11 times over the past 10 years to operate a backup operational center after the primary control center for the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellites went down. Those reservists have been able to provide a backup capability for the weather satellites within 45 minutes of receiving a call, Griffin said.
While part-time reservists generally serve a few days a month, the Air Force also has full-time reservists on active duty who are allowed to serve in a particular organization without being subject to the requirements of rotating to a different unit every three to four years as other active duty personnel are required to do, Griffin said. Those full-time reservists serve in the Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) slots, and sacrifice the ability to move around and fulfill requirements for rank promotion in favor of greater stability for their families, he said.
As the Air Force downsizes its active duty force, the recruitment challenge for the reserves has grown in importance. As is the case with the military’s recruiting for active duty spots, the command looks for recent high school and college graduate to fill reserve spots, Griffin said. The command also is looking for those who have recently left the military, or are planning to do so, to fill positions with more experienced personnel, he said.
People who have served in the Air Force often feel passionately about their service, but choose to leave active duty in order to avoid the continued burden of frequent moves on their families, Griffin said. Serving in the reserves on a full-time or part-time basis can give those people stability while providing the Air Force with continuity of expertise in a particular organization, he said.
The Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile warning ground control station is one mission that is expected to receive an increase of reserve support to augment active duty operators this year, Griffin said.
The SBIRS ground support team will gain eight full-time reservists and 16 part-time personnel, Griffin said. Those reservists will operate the first SBIRS sensor, which is hosted on a classified satellite in highly elliptical orbit, as well as a second highly elliptical payload, and at least two dedicated spacecraft planned to follow in geosynchronous orbit, he said.
That work will take place at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo. , host of the 460th Space Wing, which is involved with missions including missile warning and satellite communications.
Space situational awareness, which Air Force Space Command officials describe as a top priority for the command, is another area that is expected to see an increase in reserve support later this year. Forty-one full-time, and 49 part-time reservists will be called on to operate the Rapid Attack Identification and Reporting System, a ground-based system that brings together data from a variety of sources to pinpoint and characterize interference on U.S. satellites, Griffin said.
A significant portion of the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, which serves as the primary operational point of contact for military space capabilities, is manned by reservists, Griffin said. Air Force Space Command plans to add 23 full-time reservists, and 63 part-timers, to the center this year, he said.
Air Force Space Command also will see growth in its reserve forces that provide security due to changes recommended by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission last year, Griffin said. Vandenberg Air Force Base is receiving 61 full-time and 192 part-time reserve positions that were previously allocated to Portland International Airport Air Guard Station.
Buckley Air Force Base is slated to gain 15 full-time and 138 part-time reserve positions that were previously allocated to the 926th Fighter Wing at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in New Orleans. While those positions are transferring to Air Force Space Command, most of the people in those jobs today are not expected to move, which Griffin said adds to his recruitment challenge.