By Mark Nelson, Air Reserve Personnel Center Historian
/ Published January 31, 2014
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The world was a different place in 1990. The promise of peace had grown with the demise of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall. Things were looking up, both for the world at large and Air Force Reserve, despite the conflicts to come.
At the dawn of the decade, Air Reserve Personnel Center leaders were making efforts to merge private-sector achievements with military functions, launching Total Quality Management in July 1990. Based on a private sector model to achieve customer satisfaction through the involvement of everyone in the organization, TQM enabled supervisors and employees to identify quantifiable methods to continuously improve work processes. It was a good focus for a center recently at peace, but peace didn't last long.
That August, Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened to strike Saudi Arabia. In response, President George H. W. Bush declared a national emergency and ordered American forces to the Middle East. Named Operation Desert Shield, it quickly became the largest American military deployment since Vietnam.
ARPC's commitment to improve all aspects of the mobilization process paid off as soon as the President decided to deploy troops. The ARPC commander activated a 24-hour Personnel Mobilization Center that same month. Within days, 227 individual mobilization augmentees volunteered for active duty.
A month later, President Bush invoked Title 10 United States Code 673b, known as the "200,000 recall," and announced the mobilization of reserve forces.
After multiple attempts to convince Saddam Hussein to withdraw Iraqi forces from Kuwait, coalition forces launched a huge air campaign in January 1991, called Operation Desert Storm, with more than 1,000 air sorties per day.
The month-long air campaign almost destroyed the entire Iraqi Air Force and inflicted huge losses on Iraqi ground units. In February, a massive two-pronged ground attack swept into western Iraqi and Kuwait, and within three days, the Iraqis asked for peace terms. President Bush ordered a cease-fire Feb. 28.
The center's contributions to this operation were substantial, mobilizing 23,148 reserve members in every category which led to ARPC receiving its third Air Force Organizational Excellence award. In April 1991, the center held a Victory Celebration Day and honored its employees who had been deployed in these operations.
As the Air Force reorganized during Operation Desert Storm, ARPC's status as a separate operating agency changed to field operating agency. Now a FOA, ARPC performed specialized activities beyond the scope of a major command.
After the conflict, political leaders called for reduced military spending and infrastructure. As a result, the U.S. Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended closing Lowry AFB in Denver. Though the base closed officially Sept. 30, 1994, the Air Force retained 80 acres surrounding ARPC's Gilchrist Building. The BRAC action resulted in 72 former Lowry civilians transferring to ARPC, allowing them to continue their federal careers.
As the 1990s went on, ARPC adopted a new organizational emblem, as well as new technologies and processes. In December 1994, the center activated its first voicemail system and, in May 1995, launched the new digital Automated Records Management System. Technicians began converting paper records to an optical disk which greatly reduced the need for storage space. Though lengthy, the process converted all paper documents to digital format.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Ronald R. Fogleman, who served at ARPC from 1974 to 1975 as the chief of rated assignments, activated the Air Force Reserve Command as the Air Forces' newest major command in February 1997 in a move he called "tiered readiness." This action placed AFRC on equal footing with the other major commands. ARPC reorganized again and became a direct reporting unit to AFRC in September 1997.
Meanwhile, in March 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization launched Operation Allied Force in response to Serbian President Siobodan Milosevic's campaign of ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Albanians.
In mid-April, the commander of U.S. European Command, General Wesley Clark, requested 300 additional aircraft and additional support personnel because there were not enough trained military members available to conduct this operation. President Bill Clinton filled that need by recalling more than 33,000 reserve component members up to 270 days.
The Air Force portion of the recall included 25,000 members, focused initially on four Air National Guard refueling units and four others from the Air Force Reserve. During the air campaign, approximately 65 Air Force Reserve weather and intelligence officers, and more than 500 civil engineers, were ordered to active duty. By June, after suffering serious losses, Serbian forces agreed to NATO's terms and withdrew from Kosovo.
For ARPC, Operation Allied Force was a dress rehearsal for later mobilizations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. The center staff successfully mobilized almost 800 IMAs and nearly 4,600 reserve unit and ANG personnel. These members represented 40 percent of NATO's air refueling capability and 25 percent of the A-10 attack aircraft.
Despite the changes and challenges of the '90s, the men and women of ARPC overcame and prepared for a new century. The next decade would see the single greatest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor, war and social change, and even more transition for ARPC. And again, ARPC and its people were ready.
Editor's Note: Lt. Col. Belinda Petersen and Master Sgt. Christian Michael, ARPC Public Affairs, contributed to this article.