News>As he eases into retirement, the commander of Air Force Reserve Command shares his thoughts on the Air Force Reserve
Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr. speaks during last year’s Air Force Reserve Command Senior Leaders Conference as Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley looks on. During Stenner’s four-year tenure as AFRC commander and chief of Air Force Reserve, the command has undergone some signifcant changes and achieved some important milestones. Perhaps the most important is the successful implementation of his Air Force Reserve 2012 initiative. (Jim Varhegyi)
Master Sgt. Jacob Green, a deployed Reservist from the 446th Civil Engineer Squadron, McChord Air Force Base, Wash., greets Stenner during the general's visit to Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq, in 2009. (Staff Sgt. Eunique P. Stevens)
by Betty Kennedy
Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command
6/5/2012 - Citizen Airman/June 2012 -- (Editor's note: In June 2008, Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr. became the 27th person to lead the Air Force Reserve. He is set to retire and relinquish his dual position as Air Force Reserve Command commander and chief of Air Force Reserve to Maj. Gen. James F. Jackson.
During Stenner's four-year tenure, the Air Force Reserve has undergone some significant changes and achieved some important milestones. Perhaps his most important accomplishment, and the one thing that the general will be most remembered for, is the successful implementation of his Air Force Reserve 2012 initiative.
Under this series of projects, he led AFRC to achieving full operational capability, making the Reserve a full-component partner and the single manager of readiness, predictability and generation of Reserve capability. This marked a significant change in the way Reservists are managed and Reserve capabilities are made available to other Air Force major commands and combatant commanders to accomplish emerging and steady-state missions.
Under Stenner's leadership, the command continued to expand its involvement in total force integration, increasing associations with both the regular Air Force and the Air National Guard. He led Air Force Reserve efforts to support the Air Force's No. 1 priority, which is continuing to strengthen the nuclear enterprise. He worked to stand up the first-ever reserve component B-52 associate unit that is responsible for both conventional and nuclear missions.
The general rebuilt the Reserve's infrastructure to meet both the strategic and operational demands of the nation's defense. This included streamlining staffing procedures, rebuilding both the Office of Air Force Reserve and the Reserve advisor/mobilization assistant programs, revamping the mission and structure of the numbered air forces, and standing up a new Force Generation Center. The FGC serves as the single path to request and receive, as well as oversee and deliver, Air Force Reserve forces and capabilities.
In preparation for his retirement and change of command, Stenner sat down with Betty Kennedy, the command's director of historical services, for an interview. Following are excerpts from this interview.)
Kennedy: In February 2009 at the AFRC Senior Leaders Conference, you presented your signature Air Force Reserve Today and Tomorrow briefing in which you offered a different perspective on the Air Force Reserve. You held the Air Force Reserve was foremost a "strategic reserve" that could be leveraged to be operationally engaged around the world daily. How did you come to this position?
Stenner: We had to define what we were going to be. We needed this to go into our strategic plan and the Air Force strategic plan if you are going to be a full partner. And I firmly believed that we just couldn't switch to an operational force or you become one of those. There was no way you could be a temp agency. I did not agree at all with just being an operational reserve. Having studied some of the operational plans and contingency plans when I was the director of plans and programs here at the headquarters, I looked into what have you been asked to do. We have our forces in the OPlans. Those are big MCOs, major combat operations. Every combatant commander has an OPlan requirement for something. You have got to be able to do these. We have that. I don't think we want to give that up.
Maintaining that strategic reserve, the only way you can do that is to make sure you don't break the dwell and people don't leave. You start saying you are no longer 1:5, you're 1:4. So, I believe in a strategic reserve, leveraged to meet the operational needs in every mission set around the world today. This meant that we had to manage it differently. How do you command and control and generate those forces? This led to our Force Generation Center. Not only for the FGC to do those kinds of things for the strategic wars but the daily ops and the aerospace expeditionary force rotations along with off-cycle security packages. So, in the construct of AFR 2012, all of this started coming together very nicely.
We hadn't morphed ourselves from the 1997 AFRES to be a major command. I briefed at CORONA (a periodic meeting of the Air Force's senior leaders) on where we were headed. I don't think I could have stood tall without adjusting how this command did business. How we would be a full-up partner that turned out to fully operational capable, FOC. We've had initial operational capability for 50 years. So, FOC was to pull us up and put ourselves on the table as a full-partner MAJCOM because we can track where our resources are going, we can understand what capability we have, and we can generate and deliver that capability. This also included lashing up the three staffs -- Headquarters AFRC, the Office of Air Force Reserve and the Air Reserve Personnel Center -- and readjusting the numbered air force structure. I very much appreciate the staffs' efforts and those of Col. Greg Vitalis (the point man for AFR 2012).
Kennedy: You were also a little different in talking of the depth of the strategic reserve.
Stenner: The depth is not just the Selected Reserve. If we start looking at what we manage at ARPC, close to a million records equals the Selected Reserve, the folks who participate on a daily basis, and members of the Individual Ready Reserve. In the IRR, there are folks who we can tap into and have gotten. Programmatically, that becomes important.
Then, you have the retirees -- active duty, Guard and Reserve. You still have the capability that you can go get retirees, if you need to. We just didn't know how. And then, you have the Standby Reserve at the very end. That is strategic depth. Add the Air National Guard to that, and you have two components that are out there -- able and available.
Kennedy: You spoke of a three-component Air Force.
Stenner: Three components. That to me is imperative. If you don't look at it as a three-piece whole and you only look at how you deal with the active force and define yourself by how many active-duty members you have, then you don't get the synergy with the associations. And if you only look at it from the view of what you keep in the Guard and Reserve, then you only regard us, perhaps, for just surge. There has always been hesitancy by the planners because they didn't have assured access. You do if you have mobilizations. But, they didn't have assured access daily. So, mobilization is a piece, and we have our record on volunteerism these past 20 years.
When you look at the one piece that is unique to the Air Force, which has defined us for decades now, it is that we train and maintain the same standards (as the regular Air Force). And that's where you come to the reality of a three-component Air Force. We are a three-component Air Force seamlessly integrated. We are able to integrate seamlessly because we do train and maintain the same standards. If you don't, you become an active duty, a Reserve and a Guard.
Kennedy: The Air Force Reservists and Guardsmen of today are thinking and serving differently than those in the early '80s. They serve concurrently with a civilian career and reserve service when in the past they were waiting for the big one to be called up. The system has not totally accommodated this reserve person and his or her contribution.
Stenner: It has not, and this is a big piece of working through the nuances of what's in that dwell. When you have Air Force Reservists on duty to the military for 200 days a year and still trying to do their civilian jobs, there is not a whole lot of time left for family.
When you have mobilization triggers that don't mean anything or have not been counted appropriately, we are stressing the wrong force. We don't count the stress on the Guard and Reserve. The trigger is on the active duty that says they are stressed. So, we trigger the mobilization. Well, we have been using mobilizations fairly liberally in some cases, especially when the daily operations are the preponderance of the effort, such as in the air mobility fleet. You can't count it the same way. So, we are working through the how do you count it.
You have got to be concerned about all three components and the stress on all of them. There has got to be a balance there, too. So, we haven't quite cracked the code on what is dwell, what is deploy, and how, when you have three parts to your life, you factor that in. That's the civilian, family and reserve pieces. The family piece is almost a wash for all three components. But, the civilian job with its employer piece is not. We still have a lot of work to do, I think.
Kennedy: Did the Air Force really understand how the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission affected the Air Force Reserve Command more than the active duty -- that the Reserve would have to "re-grow" locations?
Stenner: I don't think so. It was one of those (situations) where they grew up in an environment of, "Hey, we'll just put it down there, and we will PCS them. They'll be up and running next month."
We can put the flag in place, but the fact that it is going to take us three to five years, they still do not understand. It's only until you go through it and see it. It's going to take a long time to put this back together. So, we are still finishing right now today in 2012 some of the things that we started in 2005. And, we are not there yet. But, we are where the enduring missions are. It was an investment in the future.
Kennedy: Among the personnel initiatives undertaken during your tenure was the full-time support. You chartered a Full-Time Support Working Group. You wanted one umbrella for managing the FTS. You wanted for each -- regular civilian, air reserve technician and active Guard and Reserve -- to know the expectations, the rules and their career paths. Why is that so important?
Stenner: For years now, we have been trying to figure out why you would do AGRs versus ARTs. Brig. Gen. MaryAnne Miller and her group studied all the laws and built a chart. They identified every single place along this decision tree, which status for what requirement per the laws, policies and Defense Department instructions. It was very interesting, for we found pieces of law that we didn't even know existed. At the end of the day, the working group produced a full-time support decision matrix. We now had the full-time support answer, which in effect was a precursor to force management and force development, because if you are going to manage the ARTs differently than you are going to manage AGRs, you have to know why.
In force development, I don't care if you are an ART, AGR, individual mobilization augmentee or traditional Reservist. I want you to be the right person at the right time in the right place. A person in one status doesn't have an advantage over another person in a different status. I really can't, nor do I want to, manage 72,000 individuals. So, we had to distill (or reduce) it down to the high-potential officers and enlisted members. And once you do this, you have to utilize the development team. So, this has been a work in progress that has been in parallel in a lot of cases. The personnel staffs, along with the career management board, and the force management and development teams, have worked this hard.
Kennedy: What are high-potential individuals? What do they do?
Stenner: First of all, they want to be one. They have got to desire not only the promotions but also the issues that they will have to deal with and resolve to make this whole enterprise better. They can lead people and have proven it.
The other thing that I see as being very, very important is having an understanding of staff work above wing level, whether it be at the numbered air force or major command. Then, you need to take, I firmly believe, a tour in the joint world. That's the way we are fighting now; that's the way we will fight tomorrow and in the future -- as coalitions and joint forces. Once you get some joint experience, we need somebody who is successful in the national capital region in understanding what goes on in the Pentagon and on the Air Staff.
So, the broader your portfolio, the more you have been successful in those different arenas, the more well-rounded you are as a person who can handle and grab hold of the reigns for the future.
Kennedy: Can you reflect on your long career in the Air Force Reserve and what it has meant to you?
Stenner: It has been very rewarding. I flew F-4s. I flew A-10s. I flew F-16s. I got a chance to work in a Guard/Reserve test center. From there, it was finding out what the headquarters was all about an d then what Washington, D.C., is about. Those points along the way were pieces and parts that went into making who I am. All of those different things made it so.
It was multi-dimensional. The rewards come from so many different sectors. There are so many different people who you get to know and who remember you for something that you said. And you never know that until later on when somebody tells you, "I remember when you said this, and this is what it meant to me." "I remember when you said this is what I should do as a career path. I did it, and here I am."
Having that kind of a feedback is fantastic. It has been rewarding because of the people and the execution that we have. We have an Air Force Reserve that we can be proud of because of the work of my predecessors. I'd like to think I put a little cap on it as well. And I wish all the best to my successor, because I know this Air Force Reserve is moving forward.
Kennedy: What would you like to express to the men and women of the Air Force Reserve as you depart?
Stenner: First of all, I have been very proud to be the chief and their commander. I think the Air Force Reserve is absolutely up to the challenges. I thank each and every one for being part of it. They have a great reputation throughout this system. They are well respected at the highest levels of the Department of Defense, executive branch and Congress. Performing as they have in their particular career fields, they have a solid future. And we'll be a big part of what this nation's defense is all about. They can be rightfully proud of it as well as their families who have supported them along the way. My thanks to all of them!