JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – LACKLAND, Texas --
Brig. Gen. Marty “Moose” Reynolds, vice commander, Twenty-Fifth Air Force, thanked attendees at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) September luncheon for their continued support and dedication to educating San Antonio youth and for being ambassadors of service.
This collaborative event, which also celebrated the Air Force’s 71st birthday, was attended by nearly 100 military and community professionals.
“It is comforting to know that our Air Force is the most powerful, technologically advanced, agile and lethal fighting force the world has ever known,” Reynolds said. “This capability is a direct reflection of the Airmen who make up our service, from the most senior leader to the newest basic training cadet from Lackland Air Force Base, each and every Airman is a professional warfighter, leader and wingman.”
Reflecting on trends in technology and demographics, Reynolds discussed the increasing importance of organizations like AFCEA.
“It is difficult to predict where today’s innovations will lead, but looking back at 2000 can provide some context to how much has changed in a short period,” he said.
“Eighteen years ago, China was the sixth largest economy. Today, they are a very close second,” Reynolds said. “There was no Facebook, no Snapchat. You just switched from AOL to Hotmail. There were 6 billion people in the world, and now there are 7.3 billion. There was a Blockbuster and a Best Buy. Maybe the most important change is, the speed of change was picking up.”
Reynolds also highlighted that the strategic environment has transformed as well.
“Ten years later, in 2010, China published more research articles than Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France. They built 5,000 high rises while only two were constructed in Los Angeles. The U.S. fell from number one to number 11 in the fraction of 25- to 34-year-olds with a high school diploma. The cost of education in the U.S. surpassed growth in family income, and U.S. students amassed $633 billion in loans. This is just a snapshot of the transformation,” he said. “Over the next eight years, these trends remained problematic.”
Fast forward to today, Reynolds said the United States military may not be leading in the areas of additive manufacturing, direct energy, 3-D printing, biometrics, artificial intelligence and other technological fields like it did during the space race, so it must rely on the civilian sector to push the research and development envelope.
In addition, Reynolds said, demographic, economic and societal changes are forcing the military services to rethink how they approach recruiting and retention.
“Research has shown, 77 to 86 percent of today’s recruits have a direct family member in the military. At the same time, only one-third of those in the ages of 18 to 29 know someone in the military, down from 60 percent among those age 30 to 49,” Reynolds said. “The other important trend is, the number of 17- to 24-year-olds who are qualified and available to join without a waiver is shrinking. In fact, only 17 percent meet our standards, and this number drops to 13 percent if you exclude those scoring in the 30th percentile on the Armed Force Qualification Test.”
“We need your help,” Reynolds reiterated to the attendees. “We have to get out ahead of kids and make sure they understand the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. From an Air Force perspective, we want them to appreciate and be excited about aviation. Finally, we want them to understand the importance of making good choices early in life, and also introduce them to the service. Not just military service, but service in general.”
“You are a huge force multiplier for us, as a military, because you are actually introducing young folks to not just the technology piece I talked about,” he said, “but you are also introducing them to yourself, especially those that are veterans. You can tell them about your military service.”
Reynolds also noted how important it is for industry leaders, like those present, to encourage, motivate and mentor youth to consider STEM fields, as well as taking the time to inform them about the benefits of service.
The military can be appealing for some, Reynolds said. “They may find that what they do in the military can be meaningful and worthwhile, and see a future for themselves in a profession they enjoy,” he said.
In closing, Reynolds reiterated the importance of collaboration like that of the industry partners and military members in attendance, explaining that assets and capabilities they create may change hands, but still contribute to a mission.
“The Twenty-Fifth Air Force enterprise is the primary support to the combatant commands in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, but in a lot of cases we don’t necessarily own aircraft when they get to the combatant command’s area of responsibility,” he said. But, even though ISR assets changes ownership upon arrival in an AOR, the Numbered Air Force has a responsibility to the entire enterprise to collaborate and coordinate activities to ensure mission success, he said.
The Twenty-Fifth Air Force provides multisource intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance products, applications, capabilities and resources, to include cyber and geospatial forces and expertise. Additionally, it is the Service Cryptologic Component responsible to the National Security Agency/Central Security Service for Air Force matters involving the conduct of cryptologic activities, including the full spectrum of missions directly related to both tactical warfighting and national-level operations.
Editor’s Note: Robert H. Cole, executive director, 24th Air Force, will speak at the Oct. 16, 2018, AFCEA luncheon.