By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
September 18 marks the 75th birthday of the Air Force, the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard. The Air National Guard is a reserve component of the United States Air Force.
The Air National Guard
The Air National Guard, the Air Force and the Air Force Reserve are distinctly different from each other. The Air National Guard participates in both federal and state missions.
In times of global crisis, the Air National Guard can be called upon to be a part of the active-duty Air Force. State governors can also use the Air National Guard to protect American lives when a regional or local disaster occurs.
Air National Guard members are typically reservists; members drill once a once a month and complete active-duty training for two weeks out of the year.
The Air National Guard participates in many different missions, including:
- Flying missions
- Ground support missions
- Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions
- Special operations missions
- Unique missions such as responding to domestic national emergencies
Flying missions involve bombing missions, aircraft refueling, and cargo transportation; ground support involves building infrastructure, handling explosives, and maintaining base security. Special operations missions include delivering supplies to communities in a time of crisis or search and rescue operations.
When the 9/11 terror attacks occurred, for example, the 113th Wing of the D.C. Air National Guard issued a scramble order. There was a combat air patrol over Washington, D.C., and pilots were directed to intercept and deter hostile aircraft through any means necessary.
Though Air National Guard is a smaller branch of service, it is authorized to have 106,700 servicemembers.
The Role of the Air Force
The U.S. Air Force is an active-duty military service branch and consists of enlisted and officer corps. It uses innovation and technology to protect the United States and its allies. The five core missions of the branch are:
- Air superiority
- Global strike
- Rapid global mobility
- Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
- Command and control
Since its inception, the U.S. Air Force has been one of the first lines of defense of the United States. It maintains bases on three continents, which include the United States, Europe and Asia.
The Role in National Security
The Air Force has a critical role in national security. For example, its security forces are responsible for missile security, the protection of air bases around the world and combat arms. It protects the United States and its interests from enemies and ensures effective combat operations through prompt mobility around the world.
The branch is responsible for air defense systems as well. It oversees the United States Space Force, which plays a critical national security role through satellite defense systems and space-based intelligence.
The Air Force Reserve
The Air Force Reserve is a federal component of the Air Force. It was founded in 1948 under President Harry S. Truman and has a critical role in national security.
The Reserve’s mission is to be combat-ready, and it operates in locations around the world. The Air Force Reserve operates as a standby force to respond to emergencies where necessary; upon activation, it can become a major command component of the active-duty Air Force.
Also, the Reserve conducts around 20% of the overall work of the Air Force, which includes engaging in traditional and specialized flying missions. Interestingly, hurricane hunters that fly into hurricanes to provide real-time data to the National Hurricane Center are members of the Air Force Reserve.
Ultimately, the Air National Guard, the Air Force, and the Air Force Reserve all have an essential role in protecting the United States from adversaries and continue to evolve through technological advancements. They also offer the opportunity to acquire useful skills for both the military and non-military workplace.