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Air National Guard - ACC

The airplanes still transport thousands of tons of cargo and fuel and be armed with an intimidating array of armaments. The fundamental job will be pretty much the same for members of the Air National Guard. But, the way aircrews, maintenance and support people are deployed was drastically changed this month -- for virtually all Air National Guard units -- when the Air Force implemented the Expeditionary Aerospace Force (EAF) concept.

This is the biggest cultural change in the Air Force since the separation from the Army in 1947. Gen. Michael Ryan, Air Force chief of staff, intended to restructure the Air Force into a light, lean and lethal service, similar to the Marine Corps' expeditionary forces, which can rapidly respond to any crisis without having to call up people at the last minute.

Beginning in October 1999, volunteers from Air National Guard units know, months and years in advance, where and when they are going to support the Air Force's demanding overseas commitments. They will know, for example, if they are going to Kuwait to take part in Operation Southern Watch over Iraq; to Turkey to join the Northern Watch patrols; or to support operations over Bosnia and Kosovo.

In short, they will be better able to plan their civilian lives around their military deployments. The idea is to bring predictability and stability to the Air Force, and its reserve components, so people have a home life while still meeting the obligations overseas.

The Air Force, including the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve, has divided its entire resource pool into 10 Aerospace Expeditionary Forces (AEFs), each comprised of equal combat capability. For the first time, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Expeditionary Combat Support (ECS) personnel are included in these forces and they will deploy alongside their respective aviation packages. The Air Guard has both aircraft and combat support personnel assigned to every AEF.

Two expeditionary forces are deployed at about the same time. Each AEF commitment is for 90 days. However, most Air Guard personnel rotate into their assigned theater for only 15 days, in addition to travel time. They maintain and operate the aircraft and equipment brought by the first group and they'll provide the support infrastructure.

It takes 15 months to complete the 10 AEF deployments. The 15-month cycle means people will not be away from their families during the same holidays, such as Christmas, every year and that they will be able to give their civilian employers plenty of notice about when they will leave and return.

To the maximum extent possible, members of the same units will go to the same theater of operations, at the same time. In addition, the current rules of engagement also state that ECS personnel will be asked to volunteer no more than once every 30 months.

The advanced scheduling is intended to improve recruiting and retention and help the Air Force better manage the high operational tempo that has been sapping its strength and driving seasoned pilots into the arms of commercial air lines, which offer big money and far more stability.

In the long run the Expeditionary Aerospace Force may save the Air Force money if, through predictability and stability, highly trained people can be retained and limited resources can be used more efficiently.

Virtually all of the Air National Guard's 89 flying wings are already wired into the AEF rotations that became fully operational in March 2000.

Fighter wings from Vermont and Texas, cargo carriers from New York and Wyoming, and air refuelers from Maine and Mississippi were among the assets from 28 different Air Guard wings included in the first two expeditionary forces deployed in October 1999. Twenty-two of the 23 airlift wings have been factored into the first four AEFs, and, beginning in March 2000, the Air National Guard's two B-1 bomber wings, located in Georgia and Kansas, were included in the mix.

For the first time since Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the Air National Guard has a significant and sustained participation in combat support -- to the tune of some 13,000 people every 15 months. However, not every unit and not every member of every unit participating in each expeditionary force will be sent overseas.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:16:33 ZULU