March 5, 2003Air Force works to smooth out AEF rough spots
By Cynthia Bauer
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AMCNS) - The Air Force continues its quest to smooth out the rough spots in the Air and Space Expeditionary Force process as the Defense Department positions forces for a possible conflict with Iraq.
Air Mobility Command Vice Commander Lt. Gen. John R. Baker, who serves as a member of the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff's AEF Forum, said the surge in deployments has interrupted the normal AEF battle rhythm of three-month rotations. There is now the equivalent of three or more AEFs supporting ongoing operations, as well as possible future contingencies, from more than 30 expeditionary operating bases. Those deployed include active duty and mobilized reserve component airmen.
In an update on the work of the AEF Forum, Baker said right now, AEF pairs 7 and 8 slated for redeployment at the end of February are frozen in place, and pairs 9 and 10 have deployed early. Air Force officials have said those deployed should anticipate remaining in place until further notice."We're also tapping into additional AEFs to fill some of the shortages we face. The Air Force is also mobilizing Guard and Reserve forces. This avoids deploying those who have not spent sufficient time back home for reconstitution," said Baker. AEFs 1 and 2 were scheduled to deploy in June, and AEFs 3 and 4 in September. AEFs 5 and 6 returned from deployment at the end of November. "We have always advertised that the three-month battle rhythm would need to be suspended to support this level of effort," he said. "The warfighters want the team they already have in place, the team that has established relationships. War is 24-7 and requires people. The commanders are not in a position to train an entirely new group. They need to expand their capabilities in Southwest Asia." Baker said he feels the command's airmen and their families understand the need for extended deployments, and he's ensuring that AMC commanders and their staffs take care of families on the home front. "We've put together a video-teleconference for commanders and family support center folks to sit down and review considerations and help families prepare for war. Every family should be confident that there is help available for anything they need from childcare to bill-paying. The commanders are responsible for making this happen. It's part of taking care of our people," he said. Baker said the forum continues to address other issues, including filling the AEF libraries, or pool of deployable airmen, with individuals who are properly coded for deployment and as well as improving the system. He said the forum has spurred the increase in the number of individuals identified for deployment. "A couple of years ago, we had about 80,000 airmen coded as deployable," said Baker. "We now have more than 260,000. This is important because it helps us avoid tapping the same people over again for deployment." In addition to filling the library, the AEF Forum has also concentrated on identifying and relieving stressed career fields. "We now have a new way of measuring how stressed our various career fields are in meeting our deployment commitments. We developed a new formula that's easier to understand," said Baker. He said the new measurement provides assessments consistent with those in the past, but now provides information on the extent to which a career field is stressed. The new formula looks at home-station demand, deployment requirements and the total number of active duty assigned to a particular Air Force Specialty Code. Home-station demand is the people and specialties needed to keep a base open. "That gives us a better picture than the old formula of deployment requirements versus numbers assigned," said Baker. The relative level of stress is important in determining what can be done to relieve that stress.
"We are looking at various solutions from higher accession rates of airmen into stressed career fields, cross-training and contracting out, as well as actually adjusting our force content, among others," he said. "But as I've said before, the fix won't happen overnight, but it will happen."
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