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8th AF commander envisions future of Fightin' 55th

Air Combat Command News Service

Release Date: 11/05/2002

By Airman Vanessa Gray 55th Wing Public Affairs

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. (ACCNS) -- Fifty-five minus 12 equals the "Mighty Eighth?" Not in mathematical terms, but with the restructure of Air Combat Command's numbered air forces Oct. 1, the 55th Wing's resources are added to the 8th Air Force from 12th Air Force.

The new recipe of the 8th Air Force calls for the essential ingredient - intelligence - produced by the "Fightin' 55th."

"I think the 55th is the hub of the new 8th Air Force. It is where all the intelligence starts. This is where the national and tactical intelligence comes together," said Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, 8th Air Force commander. "This is where we provide an integrated product to the war fighter. I think that if we are going to build a new 8th Air Force that presents an integrated package of capabilities that includes intelligence gathering, command and control, and the ability to produce a kinetic and non-kinetic effect, it begins right here at the 55th Wing."

The restructuring of 8th Air Force is part of the Air Force's drive to do things better, building a stronger national defense by integrating information operations and effectively increasing war-fighting abilities.

"We want to do a better job of putting the pieces together that are now in the 8th Air Force than we have in the past. We used to have just a bunch of bombers, and we put them together to do one thing, and that is to go drop bombs on things," said Carlson. "Now, we have a bunch of difference pieces. We have intelligence gathering assets here at Offutt, command and control assets at Robins (Air Force Base, Ga.), and we still have those bomb droppers, the people who create effects.

"Now, we are going to put those together, so we have a much better package that is much more efficient and effective at doing what it does," he said.

Combining similar assets has affected the 55th Wing on two fronts, the restructure of the 8th AF, and the acquisition of the 41st and 43rd Electronic Combat Squadrons at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The 41st and 43rd ECS are the primary units of the Compass Call, an electric communication-jamming device.

"I think the Compass Call integration is a perfect fit for the 55th. They are in one part of the communications business, and the 55th is in another. The 55th's job is to listen, and (the Compass Call's) job is to jam. Unless you closely work together, you'll be listening to something they are jamming, or they'll be jamming something you are trying to listen to," Carlson said. "So the better, the closer, the more efficient and the more effective the coordination is, the better war fighters we're going to be."

With the significant changes of the 8th AF, many challenges lie ahead, such as training.

"Unless we are able to train together, we'll never be able to increase that capability. We have to build opportunities to train, and that will be very difficult because of the tempo we are operating at," said Carlson. "We have got to figure out a way to do this more efficiently and effectively, so when we put these pieces together, they are ready to go to war. Training is the first big challenge we have. I think if we do that well, the rest of the challenges will go away."

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