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Commentary: EAF vision moves closer to reality

Released: 15 Mar 1999


by Maj. Gen. Donald G. Cook
Director of expeditionary aerospace force implementation

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Operation Northern Watch. Southern Watch. Deliberate Forge. Joint Forge. Able Sentry. Desert Fox. Desert Thunder. Joint Guard. The American public may briefly hear these military operations' code names on television, but most won't understand the Air Force's significant role in each major endeavor, let alone the impact on our lives.

But to Air Force people, these commitments and a laundry list of many others, are pretty well known. They've either personally "been there and done that," or know of a friend or co-worker who has done the same. In fact, they may even be getting themselves ready to deploy to some locale they probably couldn't even locate on a globe.

No one could have accurately predicted the new world order. Our Cold War "victory" carries with it an underestimated global leadership role. The rest of the world looks to us foremost to take action when things go bad anywhere else in the world. As a result, our national military strategy calls for us to provide relevant aerospace forces to undertake these global engagement operations.

"Relevant" means what we bring to the fight. A quick review of the Air Force's core competencies -- global attack, air and space superiority, precision engagement, rapid global mobility, information superiority and agile combat support -- provides the answer. We deliver the forces to achieve desired effects.

These diverse capabilities are what the warfighting commanders in chief rely on to do the job in their area of responsibility. We deliver the unique capabilities, via tailored forces, that help deter aggression, shape the international environment while helping our sister services' and provide the desired response to their requirements.

As Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Ryan has said before, our Air Force is not the same service in which our parents may have served. In fact, it's not the same service for those who came on board during the mid-1980s build-up. We're two-thirds smaller than a decade ago, with less overseas bases and infrastructure, yet four times as committed to events around the world, some of which have become steady-state or ongoing, operations such as those in Southwest Asia. The international security environment has radically changed and we need to adapt with it.

That is what will make us more relevant -- able to make a difference. To do that, we must become more expeditionary. We must transition from a standing, ready force, based largely at home in the continental United States, to one with the ability to deploy quickly.

More than eight years after our decisive role in Operation Desert Storm, aerospace power's relevance is coming of age. Read the major newspapers and watch the hourly news broadcasts if you want to validate the difference airpower is making in the world. This is not intended to make the other service's roles less significant, but rather, to illustrate how the national command authority leverages Air Force strengths. That will only grow in importance as technology advancements and diverse mission requirements require our expertise.

Despite some "gloom and doom" headlines, concerns over operator and technician shortages and dipped readiness indicators, Air Force people are serving the nation in a dynamic period in history. Our economy is booming, we're essentially at peace, life is good.

Yet, some 14,000 Air Force professionals are forward deployed right now in support of some military operation. For some bluesuiters, being deployed upward of one-third of the year can take its toll on family life, a reality Air Force senior leaders fully realize and are taking action to remedy. Our expeditionary aerospace force vision promises to improve our readiness and modernization and relieve some of our tempo concerns as the concept matures. But the fix won't be Jan. 1, 2000. Revolutionary changes take a little longer to take a more permanent hold.

The EAF concept is our investment strategy over the coming years for how we're going to provide relevant aerospace forces for the 21st century. Changing the Air Force's organizational structure, operations and culture is no easy task. With less than 10 months until the EAF enters into force, its organization and structure is firming up because of the hard work of each major command's EAF planners and the Air Staff directorate tasked with implementing the concept. We're not at the 100-percent solution just yet, but we're making steady progress.

From March 8-12 we "pre-flighted" the EAF concept with a transition workshop exercise with more than 220 participants -- mostly from the wing level -- designed to work through anticipated challenges when aerospace expeditionary forces rotate in and out of their deployment cycle.

Air Force people will increasingly learn more about the AEFs as concepts of operations, command relationships and other issues under coordination take hold. Later this spring, we will have a firm idea of the alignment of AEF-affiliated wings and unit alignments under each that will provide the force package leadership element, aircraft, people and equipment.

While ongoing global-engagement operations continue to lead the newscasts and make the headlines, we're undertaking this major redesign of the Air Force. We need to adapt to the new and uncertain global security environment. We need to provide relevant aerospace forces when they are needed. Integration of the total force, including the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, into the aerospace expeditionary forces, promises to make us lighter, leaner and more lethal to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Equally important, as the EAF concept matures, the lives of Air Force members should become more stable and predictable in meeting the deployment requirements of future operations. The challenge is great, so too the reward.

RELATED SITES

* Air Force Reserve Command
* Air National Guard
* Expeditionary Aerospace Force
* Gen. Michael E. Ryan
* Operation Northern Watch