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 force.
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
-- 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."
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