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Air Force readies itself for 21st century

Released: 6 Aug 1998


by Senior Master Sgt. Jim Katzaman
Air Force News Service

WASHINGTON -- Calling it "the next logical step" to support the warfighter and enhance the quality of life for all airmen, Air Force leaders unveiled details Aug. 4 for the expeditionary aerospace for ce.

Acting Secretary F. Whitten Peters and Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan described the EAF as "a far superior way to respond to crises."

Under the expeditionary aerospace force, individual air expeditionary forces, or AEFs, would be on call or deployed up to 90 days at a time by Jan. 1, 2000. Elements would come from lead bases of "shooters," or fighter wings, supported by people and equipment from other bases both stateside and overseas.

Ryan said the overall EAF would consist of about 10 air expeditionary forces, with two on call at any given time to respond to contingency or humanitarian hot spots around the world.

The result, according to Peters and Ryan, will be a more responsive force for commanders in chief and better quality of life for all airmen who can plan for known deployments far in advance.

"During the Cold War," Peters said, "the Air Force was a garrison force focused on containment and operating as wings primarily out of fixed bases in the United States, Europe and the Pacific.

"Over the last decade, we have closed many of those fixed bases, and our operations have been increasingly focused on contingency operations in which selected squadrons deploy from [these locations] to forward bare bases for the duration of the mission."

The secretary said that these units deployed on an ad hoc basis into command-and-control structures unique for each operation. That approach, he and Ryan agreed, has taken a toll on Air Force people during frequent, long deployments and on airmen left at home station to fill the void.

Ryan explained that the solution lies in recognizing that the many, relatively small contingencies the Air Force has supported in recent years will be the way the Air Force can expect to operate in the future.

He cited last fall's rapid build up of forces in Iraq as a good demonstration of how individual AEFs, using the light, lean and lethal concept, would operate in a joint environment.

The expeditionary aerospace force concept, Peters, Ryan and other Air Force leaders decided, is the logical answer as the Air Force prepares for the 21st century.

"The kind of contingencies we've been supporting are not going to go away," Ryan said. "We have a world-class Air Force, and this is a natural evolution in the way we organize, train and employ aerospace forces. We need to transition to the EAF so we can better meet the mission and take care of our airmen in the future."

The chief of staff emphasized that the Air Force would continue to respond to contingencies around the world, using better scheduling of people and resources.

As the general explained, the expeditionary aerospace force, drawing on individual AEFs, "is the best use of aerospace power for the warfighting CINCs. The Air Force will do that by more efficient use of the total force -- active-duty, civilian, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve -- which allows us to decrease operation tempo on our folks."

The Air Force, Peters said, wants to build on the system already in place in which guardsmen and reservists pull regular temporary duty within a deployment. In the AEF, members of the reserve components can rotate to meet their normal military commitments and work out arrangements with their employers more than a year in advance.

The Air Force also plans to create about 5,000 positions to support deployed forces by switching authorizations from specialties less likely to deploy. Competitive sourcing and privatization, along with some headquarters reductions, will make these changes possible. The new positions would be spread across roughly 29 bases, using small manpower boosts to ease the tempo for highly stressed support forces.

Peters and Ryan talked about the key features of the EAF concept:

-- Each air expeditionary force will be on call to handle contingencies for about 90 days roughly every 15 months; on average, two AEFs out of about 10 will be on call at any time.

-- Units assigned to AEFs will train as they will fight. During certain periods, active, Guard and Reserve units will train together using integrated command and control provided by a lead wing plus command elements from constituent units. "Importantly, AEF units will train for deployment together in exercises such as Red Flag," Peters said.

-- Deploying forces from each AEF will be specifically tailored to a contingency in support of warfighting CINCs, making the air forces lighter, leaner and more lethal than before.

The acting secretary said the men and women of the total force "will also be big winners" with the expeditionary aerospace force in place:

-- It will add more predictability and stability to their lives as units deploy forward or remain on call for operations during a known 90-day window.

-- All operational units will have a schedule of deployments -- for training and exercises, as well as known contingency deployments -- up to a year or more in advance. This will provide guardsmen, reservists and their employers much better notice of deployments, allowing better use of those forces.

-- Support forces deployed abroad, as well as those who remain at home stations, should have reduced tempo, thanks to the realignment of the 5,000 positions filled across the force.

"We have wonderful airmen who do all that we ask them to do," Ryan said, "and they've told me they deploy too often, on too little notice and work too hard when at home filling in for others deployed. So, the EAF is the right approach for our people. Above that, the EAF will provide the warfighting CINCs a superior 21st century fighting force."

RELATED SITES

* Air Force Reserve Command
* Air National Guard
* F. Whitten Peters
* Gen. Michael E. Ryan