BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --
As I look back over my 33 plus year career in the Air National Guard I have seen a lot of changes in the world and in our military. In November 1989, the Iron Curtain fell and the Soviet Union disintegrated a couple years later. Since that time, the U.S. military has been downsized in both personnel and equipment like never before but the threats to our nation have vastly increased. The chances of being deployed to defend our nation now have exponentially increased since the year I joined.
I joined the Alabama Air National Guard in 1982 when I was 20 years old. It was during the Reagan military buildup. That same year the active duty Air Force was 581,000 strong; well on its way to reaching President Reagan's goal of a 600,000 plus strong active duty Air Force. That goal was reached the following year. In 1982, the Air National Guard was at 102,000 and growing. The primary enemy of the United States and its allies then was of course the Soviet Union. The Guard and Reserve forces at this time were known as a strategic reserve.
The Soviet Union had a very large and well trained military in 1982. The threat they posed then to this nation and our allies was very real; however, the chances of being deployed were significantly less than now, primarily for two reasons. First, our active duty Air Force was almost twice the size as compared to today and secondly, because neither the U.S. nor the Soviet Union wanted to risk a war that could potentially go nuclear.
The Soviet Union has long been dissolved but the threats we now face are worse, primarily because they are multi-faceted. There are hot spots all over the world that could threaten us or our allies at any given time. We face a terrorist threat not only in many parts of the world but also right here at home. Other areas of concern, to name just a few, are North Korea, Iran, Syria, Russia, and China.
The size of our active duty Air Force has now shrunk to 309,000 and the strength of the Air National Guard is at 106,700. The Air Force relies on both the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve now more than ever. The Guard and Reserve forces are no longer a strategic reserve but are being asked to deploy to serve our country far more than it was ever originally envisioned when I enlisted.
Therefore we should all be prepared to be deployed on a moment's notice. Being prepared to deploy includes such things as staying physically fit, making sure you know your job well, keeping your internal affairs in order at home, making sure your family knows what to expect and who they can call for help if you are deployed, having arrangements for someone to take care of your kids if you are a single parent and having a go bag packed with at least the essentials. For more information on how to be prepared for a deployment check out the following link: http://www.realwarriors.net/active/deployment/preparedeployment.php
Since the Air Force has significantly downsized and now relies on both the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve like never before to defend our nation, it is incumbent upon us all to be ready at all times. Threats around the globe at any number of hot spots could pop up at a moment's notice and we could be asked to deploy to defend our great nation now, more than ever. Let's be ready!