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Happy 72nd Birthday, U.S. Air Force Reserve!

The Air Force Reserve is 72 years old this year.  On April 14, Air Force …

u.s. air force reserve supports USAF on tarmac

The Air Force Reserve is 72 years old this year. 

On April 14, Air Force Reserve personnel will celebrate the birth of this military component formally established by President Harry Truman in 1948.

In recent years, the Air Force Reserve has played a critical role in the success of the Air Force mission. Most recently, the president signed an Executive Order for Air Force personnel like medics to assist with COVID-19 support

Even as the youngest of all the Reserve components, the Air Force Reserve personnel stays busy — including taking on about 20 percent of Air Force work.

Today, we celebrate the dedication and unique work that can only be carried out thanks to the birth of the Air Force Reserve. 

A Brief USAF Reserve History

The need for an air reserve dates back to the Preparedness Movement and the National Defense Act of 1916. The act authorized the official Organized Reserve Corps. 

The Reserve Air Power units began serving in 1916 with the first unit deploying to France in 1917 during WWI. While tiny, they were mighty and the number of “Citizen Airmen” doubled in size from 1939-1941. 

President Truman wanted a similar program to continue on permanently where Reservists were always on standby. 

As a result, the Air Force Reserve was born on April 14, 1948. 

The U.S. Air Force Reserve Command as of Today

combat support USAF
(U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Today, the Air Force Reserve is well-stocked with individuals interested in a part-time military role. Although it may be a partial military role, the motto of this military component is, “Provide Combat-Ready Forces to Fly, Fight and Win.” 

When you take a look at the Air Force Reserve snapshot, it’s impressive the amount of work these individuals are responsible for when it comes to global operations. 

A look at today’s Air Force Reserve:

  • In total, there are 847,816 Reservists (including standby, retired, active duty, etc.)

  • Operating in various locations around the world, the Air Force Reserve has evolved from a “standby” force for emergencies into a Major Command (MAJCOM) of the Active Duty Air Force.

  • The USAF Reserve has sole USAF responsibility for two specialized missions: Aerial Spray and Hurricane & Weather Reconnaissance
  • It’s also responsible for a third unique mission shared with the Air National Guard but not the regular Air Force: Aerial firefighting.
  • The Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, and Air Force participate in national and international humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.

  • The USAF Reserve works with the US Coast Guard and other agencies in counter-narcotics operations.

Additionally, as of the fiscal year 2019, the U.S. Air Force Reserve set four funding priorities: Mission, manpower, military construction, and modernization.

U.S. Air Force Reserve Fun Facts

hurricane hunter
(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Ryan Smithies)

Like all of our military branches and components, the U.S. Air Force Reserve has a storied history and mind-blowing details that often get overlooked. Here are some interesting Air Force Reserve facts you should never be without: 

  • The difference between Air National Guard alternates between a “state” status and a “federal” status. The U.S. Air Force Reserve is strictly a “federal” reserve component.

  • Basic training is essentially is the same for the reservists as it is for USAF active duty.

  • The U.S. Air Force Reserve is the youngest of the reserve components:
    • US Army Reserve – 111 years old
    • Navy Reserve – 105 years old
    • Marine Corps Reserve – 103 years old
    • Coast Guard Reserve – 79 years old
    • Air National Guard – 73 years old
  • Charles Lindbergh was a Reservist in 1927 when he flew across the Atlantic.

  • James “Jimmy” Stewart, an Oscar-winning star, flew bomber missions with the Army Air Corps during World War II. He rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Air Force Reserve.

  • The U.S. Air Force Reserve 2019 Fiscal Year budget for operations and maintenance alone was $3.19 billion. Another $60.5 million was set aside for Overseas Contingency Operations.

How to Join the U.S. Air Force Reserve 

reenlistment ceremony U.S. Air Force Reserve
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Paige Yenke)

What better way to say happy birthday to our country’s youngest reserve branch than by joining? 

If you’ve always wanted to serve your country, you can do so without interrupting your current education or civilian career. The U.S. Air Force Reserve is always looking for new talent in a variety of fields. 

Here’s a look at how it works:

Applicants without prior military service must:

  • Be 17 to 39 years old
  • Have good health
  • Be a U.S. Citizen or legal permanent resident
  • Have a high school diploma (or GED with 15 college credits)

Different considerations are made if transitioning from active duty or are an officer. Here’s a look at how enlistment differs for you if you’ve served before or have higher education: 

Prior service

  • If you’ve previously served as an active duty Air Force member or in another military branch, your “adjusted age” must be less than 40 years old. (Subtract your years of service from your age. If the result is less than 40, you may be eligible.)

  • Candidates with prior military experience won’t repeat Basic Military Training (BMT). You can continue your service and often keep your rank.


  • All officers in the Air Force Reserve must have a college degree and be selected to hold a commission. Enlisted personnel can become officers upon earning a bachelor’s degree.

  • All officer candidates attend a nine-week course at the Officer Training School at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. For those in healthcare, legal or religious professional areas, you’ll attend Commissioned Officer Training.

  • Certain professions (i.e., a doctor or nurse) allow you to enter the Air Force Reserve as a commissioned officer. You’ll attend extra training.

  • If you’re an enlisted member of the Air Force Reserve (or any other branch of service) and have a college degree, you may be offered a commission. Then, you’ll be required to complete Officer Training School.

  • Members of Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) can become a commissioned officer upon graduation.

Interested in joining? Read more here on how to start your career with the Air Force Reserve. 

Want to learn more about the U.S. Air Force? Check out our 9 Things You Didn’t Know About the U.S. Air Force post.



Feature image courtesy of U.S. Air Force. Photo by Lauren Kelly

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