Healy talks resilience, readiness at Airlift/Tanker Association symposium

  • Published
  • By Jaimi Chafin
  • Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs

The chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command spoke about the Reserve’s role in the airlift and tanker world and how his priorities for the command line up with the future fight at the Airlift/Tanker Association’s annual convention in Denver in late October.

The theme of this year’s event was “The Fight to get to the Fight.” 

“As we face new military threats in an era of renewed strategic competition, the tyranny of distance makes the fight to get to the fight all that much more challenging,” said Lt. Gen. John Healy. “As we proceed as a team, we need to ensure we leverage the unique strengths of each component of the Total Force to ensure the success of the Air Mobility enterprise.” 

Healy said the Reserve brings an unparalleled level of expertise to the fight.

“The Air Force Reserve continues to provide a deep well of experience, with the average pilot having more than 2,500 military flight hours, 42% of our pilots being instructor pilots and 32% being evaluator pilots,” he said, adding that the Reserve experience was foundational to the mobility enterprise.

He went on to discuss how Reserve pilots were able to offset new pilot inexperience in World War II, specifically in the Ferry Command.

The command quickly learned that while its pilots were trained to fly, nothing had prepared them for flying and surviving in austere environments. So, changes were made. The command added more crew rest and expeditionary skills training. Healy said the training fostered a sense of resilience and hope.

Now that the Air Force is facing newer threats, Healy said it’s time to continue training to meet the needs of modern warfare as a team.

“General (Mike) Minihan (Air Mobility Command commander), (Lt.) General (Michael) Loh (Air National Guard director) and I are in violent agreement about the threat we face,” Healy said. “For the last three decades, our adversaries have studied us and explored every possible way to neutralize our strategic advantages, especially our mobility enterprise. AMC’s Mobility Manifesto is a clear-eyed acknowledgment that we have to be ready for the pacing threat by focusing on command and control, navigation, and maneuvering under fire at speed.” 

The general then highlighted his two priorities for AFRC: Ready Now! and Transforming for the Future.

“Ready Now! is vital because the frank reality is that our entire enterprise as an Air Force is for naught if we can’t win today,” he said, providing examples of how the Reserve is transforming to enhance readiness.

Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts, for example, recently completed an energy resilience exercise where the base was cut off from commercial power for 18 consecutive hours. At the major command level, AFRC has developed exercises like Rally in the Valley and Rally in the Rockies to build the skills necessary to operate in austere environments.

“In 2021, we began really building on agile combat support competencies and developing multi-capable Airmen with the Rally in the Rockies exercise with our partners in the Air National Guard,” Healy said. “Using the Garfield County Airport in Rifle, Colorado, more than 100 Airmen worked across Air Force Specialty Code stovepipes to operate a simulated austere expeditionary base.”

Meanwhile, aircrews were able to hone their combat airlift skills, culminating with landing on highways in rural Wyoming.

All of this is part of a stress inoculation program the command is implementing.

“Stress inoculation was developed to incorporate stress-inducing scenarios into AFSC-specific training and exercises,” Healy said. “Instead of being additive training, it is complimentary to job qualification standard tasks with pre-built training scenarios and feedback mechanisms tied directly back to Airman leadership qualities.” 

The general said that during Operation Allies Refuge, the command was lucky to have a crew of five Total Force Airmen who were resilient enough to meet some of the direst circumstances imaginable, referencing the situation Maj. Dom Calderon and his crew found themselves in while aiding in the evacuation of approximately 124,000 people out of Afghanistan in August 2021. The full story can be read here

During the early days of Allies Refuge, the Air Force Reserve generated 86 volunteer aircrews within 72 hours. In all, 20% of evacuees were taken to safety by Air Force Reserve assets.

“Many of these situations hinged on the ability of our leaders at the lowest levels to act on commander’s intent, even when completely cut off from communications and air traffic control,” Healy said. “Resilience is not an accident. It’s a byproduct of deliberate readiness training.

Healy closed by saying that AFRC’s investments in resilience will ensure that every Reserve Citizen Airmen is confident and ready to do their job if and when the time comes.