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Military

Teets: Air Force confident, strong, ready

by Louis A. Arana-Barradas
Air Force Print News


2/17/2005 - ORLANDO, Fla.  -- The acting secretary of the Air Force assured the Air Force Association here Feb. 17 the service is confident, strong and ready to face any threat.

"And I know it will remain that way," Peter B. Teets told about 1,000 attendees of the association's annual Air Warfare Symposium. The association promotes Air Force interests.

Mr. Teets outlined what the Air Force "brings to the fight." He also summarized the state of the Air Force mission, its commitments and its capabilities by highlighting three key service competencies. The capabilities, he said, work together to help the Air Force develop and maintain its military edge.

Foremost, he said, the Air Force owes its worldwide mission success to its dedicated, professional and talented Airmen. That is why it is vital to keep them well trained.

"Developing Airmen is our first core competency, not because we have to do it, but because we've chosen to do it extremely well," Mr. Teets said. Providing Airmen chances for growth and development has paid off in mission success, he said.

Working from home and locations around the globe, total force Airmen keep the nation secure and fight the war on terrorism. In 2004, there were nearly 31,000 Airmen in Southwest Asia, of which more than 7,500 were in the Guard and Reserve. Over Iraq and Afghanistan, Airmen flew 225 missions a day.

Airmen are used to a high operations tempo. But what sets them apart today, he said, is that they are doing their regular missions and things they didn't do before. With their new roles, these "battlefield Airmen" have quickly become vital members of the joint force.

"Today, when people talk about 'boots on the ground,' many of those boots are worn by Airmen," Mr. Teets said.

The troops performing convoy duty in Iraq are a prime example of the battlefield Airman, he said. Another example: Airmen fill more than 1,900 positions in 16 combat support skills for the Army. Additionally, Airmen continue their war on illegal drug trafficking and taking part in humanitarian missions.

With so many tasks, Airmen must cope with new challenges, longer deployments and hardships. But, Mr. Teets said, they continue saying they are "satisfied with their work, their missions and their accomplishments."

However, he said, for the Air Force to accomplish its varied missions, it must accomplish another core competency, get the latest technology to the warfighters. This involves applying a capabilities-based approach to war planning and force development.

"Instead of focusing on what platform we might build, we examine what battlespace effect the joint warfighters need, and then what capabilities will deliver those effects," Mr. Teets said.

There are seven operational concepts to examine those needs and forge capabilities. Mr. Teets touched on some of those concepts.

Global mobility, he said, is how the Air Force projects, employs and sustains U.S. military forces around the world. Though usually thought of as military power, Air Force airlift also "projects moral power."

That was evident in humanitarian airdrops in Afghanistan, he said. Transport aircraft dropped school supplies and Afghan flag stickers. And they dropped portable radios "so locals could receive impartial news about their upcoming elections."

Mr. Teets said the service's signature global strike capabilities will depend on the F/A-22 Raptor in the future. The Raptor will allow the Air Force to maintain air dominance and give joint forces "unparalleled freedom of action."

"So we're taking (F/A-22s) as fast as the factory can turn them out, and we hope to continue to do so," he said.

Mr. Teets said use of space command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance is providing joint forces "persistent situational awareness" like never before. This gives combatant commanders fast and reliable decision-quality information. Providing this vital information is not a capability limited to a few sources.

"To guarantee the full spectrum of capabilities, we use multisource information from a mix of manned, unmanned and space systems," he said.

But it is agile combat support, including that at air logistics centers, that keeps all the technology, new and old, working. The Airmen and civilians at these depots are the ones who keep things on track.

"If it's broken, they fix it," Mr. Teets said. "If it's old, they make it like new. If it can be made better, they find a way to do it."

And though the maintainers "work magic every day, even their magic cannot keep sustainment costs from rising," he said. So the Air Force must recapitalize its fleets so it does not have to keep paying more to keep older systems running.

At the same time, the Air Force must fix problems at some of its bases before they affect their missions. These include deteriorating runways and infrastructures of old buildings.

"We can do better for our Airmen," he said.

The third core competency, integrating operations, brings everything together for the combatant commander. That begins with integrating systems. Mr. Teets said the Air Force must work to better incorporate its varied operations with its sister services. So the Air Force must integrate unmanned aerial vehicles, communications, air and space intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data collection systems. Doing this allows relaying orders and intelligence throughout a theater all the way to the front lines.

"And then we can strike, quickly, precisely and hard," Mr. Teets said. "That is integrating operations for warfighting effects."

But the integration must go further than linking technologies, he said. The services must work to link tactics, techniques and procedures to maximize battlefield effects. That will take time, and it will force the services to understand each others unique capabilities.

"Then we can bring (capabilities) together in new ways that will produce the effects we need, adapted to the level of conflict we're fighting," he said.

Mr. Teets said the Air Force will continue facing challenges, while continuing to meet mission needs, as it adapts to change, to the new security environment and myriad adversaries.

"But what won't change is our dedication to defending our great nation," he said.





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