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Commentary: EAF is a journey, not an end state

Released: 5 Nov 1999


by F. Whitten Peters
Secretary of the Air Force

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Last summer, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan and I announced the beginning of our Expeditionary Aerospace Force journey. Now, our first two Aerospace Expeditionary Forces have assembled and deployed in part to Southwest Asia.

It has not been easy to get to this point. It has been a learning experience, but it is the first step in trying to create a stable and predictable lifestyle for all of our men and women.

EAF is a journey, and we have many more steps to take along this path as we transform the Air Force from a forward-based, Cold War force to an expeditionary force able to respond to crises around the globe.

EAF is not just one event. It is a completely different way of looking at how we do our business. It is also a fundamental change in the way we operate, as evidenced by the establishment of completely new training courses for both enlisted airmen and young officers -- Warrior Week during Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and the Aerospace Basic Course at Maxwell AFB, Ala.

We are moving into the EAF for two reasons. First, to make sure that the nation has the trained aerospace forces it needs. Second, to make sure that our people have relief from operations tempo, or OPTEMPO, in a turbulent world. This is really what EAF is about.

Making life better for everyone in the Air Force is my No. 1 priority for 2000, and I know that the frequency and unpredictability of deployments remains everyone's No. 1 concern. The EAF will lay the groundwork for resolving this concern by spreading the effects of an apparently never-ending high OPTEMPO across more of the force.

By using our Total Force and by re-engineering our active forces to add to those eligible to deploy, we can spread the high OPTEMPO burdens and ultimately reduce personnel tempo.

The EAF will also lessen the high work levels at home stations by putting enough manning on our bases to do the work, even when units are deployed.

Improving our OPTEMPO and PERSTEMPO is something that we cannot compromise. We will never fix our retention rates unless we can guarantee people that in peacetime they will have a personal life.

With EAF as our vision, the AEFs are the tools that will transform it into a reality.

Our AEFs will be responsive, tailored and trained for the area into which we expect them to deploy. Dedicated airlift, intelligence and space assets will enable the AEFs to provide the right force at the right time, whether the mission is humanitarian relief or combat operations. This will be increasingly important in the rapidly changing 21st Century.

EAF won't be pretty at first, or provide instant relief, but it will ultimately succeed. For proof, look at Kosovo. There, we demonstrated we could deploy to some 20 bases with seeming effortlessness, and on short notice, transform a base with no U.S. facilities into a fully operational base within hours to a few days.

More important, we demonstrated that we could also turn sorties quickly, within hours to a few days. And, ultimately, when the fighting stopped, our national command authorities allowed us to come home quickly, showing the confidence we are already building in our ability to move out rapidly from home base to get the job done overseas.

While Kosovo operations showed EAF works, it also demanded a tremendous amount from our forces, and that effort did not come without a cost.

We are reconstituting the force, and we have adapted the EAF schedule accordingly. Even so, the initial AEFs include many men and women who have been involved in Kosovo and other operations this year. It is not ideal to ask these men and women to leave again so quickly, but it is essential if we are to find a long-lasting solution for OPTEMPO and PERSTEMPO.

I need the help of all Air Force members to get the word out about EAF. I need them to take time to understand the vision and our goals. Also, to take time to listen to feedback and pass it to me through the chain of command. We cannot change the mindset of the Air Force without feedback and the support and hard work of everyone in the organization.

EAF is a journey, not an end state. Today we are without a doubt the most capable aerospace force the world has ever seen. Thanks to your hard work, sacrifices and commitment, the EAF reorganization will help us stay that way.

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** Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters