This Is The Future Of The Air Force Reserve

Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller peers out the window overlooking midtown Manhattan, New York.
Photo by Sarah Sicard

In June, Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller was chosen to serve as the first female commander of the Air Force Reserve — a position that makes her one of the highest ranking women in the military. And over the four years she will spend in the post, she intends to leave her mark by making the Air Force Reserve a diverse component of the armed forces, with an important role for anyone who volunteers to join.

As she entered the New York City Air Force public affairs office conference room with a press officer and her sister, she wore a kind smile. She had piercing blue eyes and a firm handshake, and as she greeted me, she remarked that she was looking forward to visiting the 9/11 Memorial after the interview but was very happy to have had the chance to sit down with Task & Purpose.

Miller’s career spans nearly 35 years. She spent eight years on active duty before choosing to switch to the full-time reserves. A few years after that transition, Miller decided to open a restaurant and really take advantage of the reserve status to try her hand at dual military-civilian life.

“As I was in the reserves [I decided to] quit the full-time reserves piece, and expand even further into the private sector and open a restaurant in a resort community in Delaware,” she said.

On Sept. 9 — just two days before the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attack — Miller has her sights set on the Reserve’s future, but reflected on how 9/11 set the trajectory that brought her to this point.

At that time, Miller had been running the restaurant in Rehoboth Beach for about five years, and was toying with the idea of retiring from the military. After the attack, however, she realized that quitting the Air Force was not an option for her.

“We have really become truly an operational reserve since then,” Miller said. “I would say 20 years ago ... when Saddam Hussein entered Kuwait … that is when transition began with the Reserve forces to go from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve. After September 11, that just increased the flame on that.”

Now, she said, the 70,000 men and women of the Air Force Reserve stand side-by-side with the active component around the globe to bolster mission readiness, and she is incredibly proud to be a part of that.

And as the active components for all the services decrease, the role of the reserves is expected to grow, which was both an exciting and daunting prospect for Miller.

Being that she is the first female to hold this position, Miller said she is looking forward to increasing diversity across the board. This year, the Defense Department took proactive steps toward creating a more diverse force by making the move to fully integrate women into all combat positions and allow transgender men and women to enlist or commission. But Miller knows there is still work to be done.

“We’re going after the last few doors, and we’re busting those doors down, and everything will be open,” she said.

This role, she added, was one she was able to obtain because the service members who came before her were encouraging and invested in nurturing talent of young airmen and women regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.

“My path was paved by men and women before me and by great mentors who provided opportunities,” she said. That’s what I see as my role as, to provide as many opportunities for young people as we can.”

Miller plans to start targeting often neglected demographics by boosting recruitment efforts across the nation. During the four years she will spend in this role, she hopes to make the reserve a place that offers something unique for everyone who wants to join.

“My goal is to get out to every population and let them understand the opportunities that are out there for them.”

However, she was also concerned that arbitrary budget caps might hamper her abilities to do that.

“We’re the smallest Air Force we’ve ever been, and the oldest Air Force we’ve ever been in terms of 27-year-old air planes,” she said. “When you take into account that we’re the smallest, we’re the leanest, [and] have old aircraft — we’ve got to get this right.”

She added that she was worried that there is not enough money to perform all the reserve functions needed around the globe, and to provide adequate compensation for her airmen and women.

As that nation enters the final stages of election season, Miller said that the next Commander-in-Chief will need to work with Congress to ensure that Defense Department can provide sufficient funding long term.

“It’s a fine balance we have to keep everyday because the money is not going to increase, so within the money that we have, we have to get this right,” Miller said. “We need stability in the funding lines. We need stability in how we build for the future. That’s what we hope comes out of the administration.”

But supposing that is an achievable goal, Miller added that she intends to continue to build out the reserves as a crucial part of the Air Force by seeking out the best talent both from those who transition out of the active component, and also the civilian population.

“The desire to help others is there,” she said. “What I am going to do in this particular area is to show an opportunity to serve. You can serve in your civilian capacity and then bring that same expertise into the military side. There’s many, many opportunities to participate at all levels.”

My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead

"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."


Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.

They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.

As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.

But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.

Read More Show Less

Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario's seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.

Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.

The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.

Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.

Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Read More Show Less

An Army staff sergeant who "represents the very best of the 101st Airborne Division" has finally received a Silver Star for his heroic actions during the Battle of the Bulge after a 75-year delay.

On Sunday, Staff Sgt. Edmund "Eddie" Sternot was posthumously awarded with a Silver Star for his heroics while leading a machine gun team in the Ardennes Forest. The award, along with Sternot's Bronze Star and Purple Heart, was presented to his only living relative, Sternot's first cousin, 80-year-old Delores Sternot.

Read More Show Less

U.S. special operations forces are currently field testing a lightweight combat armor designed to cover more of an operator's body than previous protective gear, an official told Task & Purpose.

The armor, called the Lightweight Polyethylene (PE) Armor for Extremity Protection, is one of a handful of subsystems to come out of U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) effort that media outlets dubbed the "Iron Man suit," Navy Lieutenant Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a SOCOM spokesman, told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.

Read More Show Less