The "group," which usually consists of from two to four squadrons and a group headquarters. The group may be both tactical and administrative. All squadrons in a particular group fly the same type of plane. Groups, like squadrons, are referred to by type of plane - heavy bomber group, light bomber group, fighter group, etc. All squadrons of a group train together and the group usually moves and fights as a unit. It is a vital organization in combat operations and is basic in planning.
Constituted groups are numbered in single series beginning with an Arabic "1st" and have only one, two, or three digits in their designations. Air Force Instruction 38-101 (1994) defines a group as a level of command below the wing, like the numbered Air Force, it is a tactical echelon without significant support. A dependent group is a mission, logistics, support, medical, or large functional unit, for example, civil engineers, security police, and so on. Such groups may possess small supporting staff elements, such as standardization and evaluation or quality control, that are organized as sections. They may also contain specialized flights such as a rescue flight or operations support aircraft flight. An independent group has the same functions and responsibilities as a like-type wing but its scope and size do not warrant wing-level designation.
During World War II the United States Army Air Force (AAF) combat squadrons were normally organized into combat groups; each group possessed three or four squadrons, and the group served as the basic combat element. This organization changed in 1947 when the Air Force adopted a wing-base plan. Toward the end of 1947, the newly created Air Force decided to create wings with the same numerical designation for its groups. By doing so the Air Force hoped to reverse the previous arrangement. Prior to 1947, the operational groups were dependent on the installation commander for support. The new organization would assign a rated officer as commander while allowing the wings to control flying as well as support functions.
It is important to note that the newly established wings were not merely redesignated AAF combat groups. In many cases the groups were still active when the Air Force activated the similarly designated wings. The Air Force policy is that each organization will have a unique lineage, and that no other organization can have the lineage or history of another organization. Consequently, as the Air Force began to inactivate the World War II combat groups, their histories and honors also retired, leaving wings with no World War II history. To perpetuate the heritage of World War II combat groups, the Air Force temporarily bestows individual group histories, awards, and honors upon similarly designated wings. In 1954, a committee appointed by Headquarters USAF decided to retain the history and identity of combat groups as separate and distinct from those of the wings which replaced them. However, the committee also decided the honors of the combat groups should be bestowed upon the present day wing that carries the same numerical designation. As a result, when the 35th Fighter Wing is activated it also carries the honors of the 35th Fighter Group.
With the advent of objective wings, formed by a major Air Force reorganization in 1991, the Air Force began using groups once again to replace the deputy commander organization at its wings. Before this new structure, also called the objective wing, the Air Force's typical wing consisted of three deputy commanders. The squadrons, in turn, were assigned to the wing through the deputy commanders. A group (the combat support group) did exist but was the only one within the wing. With the introduction of the Air Force's new objective wing, new groups were activated and the group commanders replaced the deputies. Consequently, the squadrons were assigned directly to the groups. Below the wing, the group was revived in 1991 as a minimum staff operational echelon. Combat groups were redesignated and activated as operations groups. While the operations groups inherited the complete lineage and honors of their parent combat groups, wings were authorized to continue displaying the honors earned by the combat groups prior to the wing's activation.
The operations group commander is a combat leader, well qualified to lead the first strike in any combat scenario. The lean group staff consists of a standardization / evaluation function combined with quality assurance to support flight line maintenance, which will become part of this group. Other traditional operations staff functions were consolidated in a newly created operations support squadron along with weather, air traffic control and base operations. This aligns all direct support activities where they properly belong, under the operations group commander. One of the most significant changes of the restructure effort was the transfer of all flight line maintenance to the individual squadrons. Previously, the squadron only controlled the squadron's aircraft for the short time each day they were in the air. Now, the same commander assumed authority and responsibility 24 hours a day, including all traditional "organizational level" maintenance. Just as the squadron's flying operation is aligned under the operations officer, so the maintenance end of the business is aligned under a maintenance officer. This entire action means the typical flying squadron grew from about 50 total members to around 250 -- a true challenge for the most capable leaders.
The Combat Wing Organization, established in 2002, retains the Operations Group, which continues to focus on the skills of tactical employment. The group and squadron commanders are leaders in the air and on the ground-role models, ready to lead the first missions into combat. The planning, training, and employment of weapon systems are fundamental core capabilities and require the undivided attention of operational commanders.
Maintaining the health of aging fleets balanced with the need to produce the sorties that help win wars is a core capability that requires focus and proficiency. To that end the Air Force established a Maintenance Group. Commanders within the Maintenance Group are responsible for the full spectrum of base-level weapon system maintenance and to produce sorties at the designated rates. Units within the maintenance organization continue to be identified with, located with, and deployed with the operational squadron they support. This will include slices of maintenance organizations such as munitions, component, and equipment maintenance designated to deploy with specified units. They will wear the colors of that squadron and will continue to interface on a daily basis with the scheduling and detailed integration of that squadron's activities. The Maintenance Group commander is expected to be the role model to maintainers just as the Operations Group commander is to the operators.
Mission Support Group
Recent events have clearly focused not only on sustaining home base capabilities, but also on rapidly employing weapon systems and establishing our operational presence anywhere in the world. This expeditionary capability will fall largely on the professionals in the new Mission Support Group. This group merges the current Support Group with the Logistics Readiness, Contracting, and Aerial Port Squadrons as applicable. Here is where the Air Force hones the expeditionary skills of crisis action planning, force protection, load planning, communications, in-transient visibility, reception, contracting actions, bare base preparation, munitions and fuels site planning, personnel readiness, and contingency bed down. Contingency bed down includes such areas as falling in on an existing expeditionary wing or group, weapon storage, tent city administration, and integrating with a contingency theater's supply system. The spectrum of skills required to be a proficient mission support commander now reside as unrelated elements. These skill elements need to be brought together as a core competency as we are tasked to operate large support functions which in some cases are not associated with deployed Air Force operational units.
Medical Groups will remain organized as they are although specific changes that deal with medical operations at home and deployed are being worked for later implementation.
The Logistics Group, established under 1991 Wing Reorganization, was abolished under the 2002 Combat Wing Organization. Like the operations group, the logistics group was designed to bring all logistical support activities under a single commander. The group staff is extremely small, consisting primarily of the remaining quality assurance personnel supporting intermediate-level maintenance. Other staff functions were consolidated into a logistics support squadron. Although flight-line maintenance resides in the operations group, all intermediate-level maintenance and equipment maintenance activities reside in the logistics group's maintenance squadron. Likewise, the group is also home to the supply and transportation squadrons.
The Support Group, established under 1991 Wing Reorganization, was abolished under the 2002 Combat Wing Organization. The support group consolidated activities into the mission support squadron. The civil engineer, services, and security police squadrons remain basically unchanged. The base's communication functions, which used to report through the Communications Command structure, are now organized as a squadron within the support group. Variations on the group structure theme continue.
While the operations, logistics, and support groups were the cornerstones of the 1991 wing organization, circumstances at different bases drove some variations on this basic theme. For example, a base with a major health care facility has a medical group. If the base houses a major communications facility, that function could be organized as a separate communications group. And a large security police contingent could necessitate the formation of a security police group. No matter what the situation at a particular installation, the objective wing structure could be readily modified to accommodate it and still retain the back-to-basics theme.
Sources and Resources
- 85th Group
- 61st Air Base Group
- 406th Expeditionary Air Base Group
- 3rd Combat Communications Group
- 5th Combat Communications Group
- 162nd Combat Communications Group (ANG)
- 251st Combat Communications Group (ANG)
- 19th Air Refueling Group
- 128th Air Refueling Group (ANG)
- 931st Air Refueling Group
- 1st Air Support Operations Group
- 3rd Air Support Operations Group
- 4th Air Support Operations Group
- 11th Air Support Operations Group
- 18th Air Support Operations Group
- 611th Air Support Group
- 154th Logistics Group
- 325th Logistics group
- 317th Airlift Group
- 463rd Airlift Group
- 615th Air Mobility Operations Group
- 715th Air Mobility Operations Group
- 621st Air Mobility Operations Group
- 721st Air Mobility Operations Group
- 513th Air Control Group
- 352nd Special Operations Group
- 353rd Special Operations Group
- 720th Special Tactics Group
- 920th Rescue Group
- 152nd Air Operations Group
- 611th Air Operations Group
- 336th Training Group
- 381st Training Group
- 340th Flying Training Group
- 479th Flying Training Group
- 38th Engineering Installation Group
- 310th Space Group
- 694th Intelligence Group
- 720th Special Tactics Group
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