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USAFE vice commander discusses Air Force operations

by Maj. Sean Kern
Kaiserslautern Military Community Armed Forces Communications Electronics Publicity Committee

12/21/2010 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- More than 100 business and military professionals gathered here recently to hear the U.S. Air Forces in Europe vice commander's perspective on Air Force operations and what it means as Air Force communications and information Airmen transition from a support role to an operational cyberspace role.

Lt. Gen. Stephen P. Mueller discussed the value of diversity in developing an operational perspective at a recent monthly Kaiserslautern, Germany, chapter of the Armed Forces Communications Electronics Association meeting here.

He shared his experience as a member of the Air Force Diversity Senior Working Group, highlighting that diversity is about "enhancing our collective perspective," and adding that cyberprofessionals are the bridge to further diversifying the Air Force's operational perspective.

The general said that transitioning from support to operations is a challenge that must be overcome.

A result of how the Air Force develops the operations and support career fields is that traditional operators have little technical expertise in the new cyberspace domain, and that not all communicators have the operational perspective of operators. Operators start out as technicians, but eventually branch out, gaining a complex understanding of Air Force capabilities and their roles in the battlespace. Support Airmen start as technicians and, in most cases, remain within their domains throughout their careers.

General Mueller stressed the impact of having an operational perspective, and said 70 percent of the general officer corps is rated, while only 35 percent of the entire Air Force is rated.

He offered a few suggestions to aid in the transition of new cyberoperations Airmen from support to operations.

First, he told them to understand that technical skill sets and the knowledge to operationally integrate Air Force capabilities are distinct, yet both are vital.

Cyberprofessionals must strive to grow operational expertise, he said.

Second, he said cyberprofessionals must work at communicating cybercapabilities to operators outside the cyberoperations community.

He encouraged cyberprofessionals to cleanse their vocabulary of acronyms and to speak in terms of capabilities and effects.

"Cyber is too important to be isolated," he said. "We must integrate cyber operations into the overall Air Force operational concept."

The general addressed the future of cyberstaff organization, noting that he anticipates the warfighting integration, or A6, function will become more focused on chief information officer duties and that other elements will be operationalized.

He observed that many combatant command J6, or command, control, communications and computer systems staffs are already operationally focused.

The major command A6 staffs, however, remain mostly technically focused.

"The Air Force has unique service requirements that will keep us blue-suited in many ways, but we cannot afford to do everything on our own," General Mueller said. "We must leverage sister-service capabilities where possible."

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