Innovation in the Total Force: Leveraging Guard & Reserve Airmen

Overview (What):

Innovation is a total force effort and ANG/Reserve Airmen are key stakeholders in this ecosystem. Integrating the talents of the 170,000 Airmen that make up the ANG/Reserve force (nearly 1/3 of the total Force) is vital to maximizing our innovation.

Objectives (Why):

As Citizen Airmen, Guard and Reserve Airmen provide a highly diverse and unique experience set, local connectivity, influence, mission continuity, and solid teamwork culture. These Reserve component airmen have jobs that bring expertise and skills that are different than the Regular Air Force.

How to Guide:

Working with the Guard and Reserve Airmen at your base:

Many Air Force installations have Reserve and Guard units located on the same base. These units could be key players in helping with the innovation efforts of your Spark Cell. Building relationships with these units is the first step in effectively leveraging Reserve and Guard Airmen. In order to build your network you need to attract and recruit subject matter experts/innovators, it is important to interact with Airmen around the installation. You will need your senior leaders to communicate, endorse, and encourage participation in the Spark Cells across the total force environment on the installation. It will be key to utilize public affairs to advertise the Spark Cell to the Guard/Reserve/Active Duty/Civilian audiences. As a best practice, you can recruit and educate Airmen from existing councils and professional organizations, such as the Top 3, Company Grade Officer Council, etc.

Collaboration outside the Gate:

Many Guard and Reserve units are located on or near civilian airports either in the same town or nearby towns to active Air Force bases. These Reserve component airmen have jobs that bring expertise and skills that are different from the Regular Air Force. Additionally, there are many members of the Reserve and Guard who may live outside of a base, but are not assigned to that base. These individuals probably already receive communication via your social media and official public affairs products. Using these platforms to invite them to participate in your Spark Cell events is a way to leverage talent you would not normally have access to. In addition to their unique work experiences and perspectives, they may have contacts with academia, local businesses, and community leaders. There are also opportunities to partner with local ROTC Detachments, which would bring access to talented Cadets and possibly university partnerships/resources.


In some cases you may be able to utilize Guard and Reserve manpower to augment a Spark Cell project on a short-term basis. There are many different duty statuses that Guard and Reserve can fall into, you should work closely with Reserve and Guard leadership to determine the best way to utilize this resource.

Stakeholders (Who): USAF Active, Guard, and Reserve

Resources (Time/Money): SIF/MAJCOM Dollars

Supporting Documentation:


References/Links to Websites:;;