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AFRC commander makes 'heartwarming' return to Grissom

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner
  • 434th ARW Public Affairs
Home is where the heart is, and for the Chief of the Air Force Reserve, a quick stop a Grissom was, in a way, a homecoming.

"It's been really heartwarming coming back here to Grissom," said Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner, Jr., Air Force Reserve Command commander, who was on a tour of AFRC installations in the Midwest. "You're the heartland of America, and I truly believe that."

General Stenner served at Grissom twice before, once as an operations officer for the 45th Tactical Fighter Squadron and then again as the 930th Operations Group commander. In total, the general spent over seven and a half years of his over 38 year career at the base.

During his visit, General Stenner met with those he had served with in the 930th OG at Grissom, local civic leaders and Col. William T. "Tim" Cahoon, 434th Air Refueling Wing commander, before holding a town hall meeting with base personnel.

During his town hall meeting, he addressed the state of the Air Force Reserve, key objectives and focus areas, force management changes, and future leadership possibilities before opening the event up for questions.

When discussing the state of the reserve, General Stenner said the Air Force Reserve is a full partner in a three component Air Force, offering assured, predictable and sustainable combat power while expanding contributions to the total force enterprise.

"The guard and reserve are not just a strategic reserve where they'll say we'll call you when 'the big one' comes," he said. "We're part of the operation, and that comes with a lot [of responsibility]."

Furthering that point, General Stenner laid out his four main focus points for the Air Force Reserve, which include maintaining a strategic reserve while providing an operational, combat ready force; preserving the viability of the reserve triad; broadening total force integration opportunities; and championing equipment and facility modernization.

Summarizing the state of the Reserve, the general said that reservists are involved in operations throughout the world and in the thick of the fight, but the main mission of the Air Force Reserve has not changed.

"We are first and foremost a strategic reserve; that's what the nation has called us to be, but we leverage that every day," said General Stenner. "Reserve capability is a very efficient way to keep the capacity to go to war."

Speaking to that point, the general said he watches deployment times and the dwell between those times closely to prevent the overuse of any one area, including in-flight refueling operations, of which the 434th ARW is responsible.

"The tanker force out there is invaluable; going east, going west you can't get there without tankers," General Stenner stated. "And, I don't want to overuse anyone."

He also stated the key to preventing that is force management. The first part of that is keeping those who have needed skill sets still serving, he said. That includes retaining current reservists, allowing regular Air Force Airmen to easily transition to the reserve, and continuing to train and grow today's Airmen into the leaders of tomorrow.

General Stenner also made note of how the Air Force Reserve structure has changed, especially in regards to simplifying force management and deployment operations. Four management resources in AFRC, including the Mobilization Cell, Air Expeditionary Force Cell and Current Operations, were recently merged into the Force Generation Center.

This merger streamlines the processes and communications between the reserve resources and the agencies wishing to utilize those resources, stated the general, who added the system was originally designed for a strategic reserve only and isn't conducive to the day-to-day operations of today's mission.

"You can get any process to work once, he said. "You just get a big enough hammer, but that doesn't work day-in and day-out."

Before opening up for questions and catching a flight to Scott Air Force Base, Ill., General Stenner addressed those in the audience who might be considering becoming a leader in AFRC.

In that, he encouraged them to finish their professional military and civilian education, get supervisory experience in their units, take joint assignments and those at higher headquarters, and most importantly let their leadership know they want to be in a leadership career track.

"If you tell me you want to do just what the Air Force needs of you, that's putting your career in my hands," he said. "Now if you tell me where you want to be, we can right out that path for you."

In closing, the general said he wants Airmen to go out and share their stories with their local communities and take pride in their service.

"Be proud that your part of a three component Air Force that does your nation's bidding around the world," he concluded.

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker in AFRC.

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