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Air and Space Expeditionary Force (AEF) Concept

AEF Concept Helps Manage Deployment Cycles


The Air Force is an AEF configured for the full spectrum of air and space operations. It has returned to its expeditionary roots in the way it organizes itself and presents its forces. This shift, brought about by force down-sizing and scaled-back overseas basing due to the end of the Cold War, provides a unifying structure that brings all Air Force members together in shared challenges, goals, and successes. An expeditionary military force by definition is one that can conduct military operations on short notice in response to crises with forces tailored to achieve limited and clearly stated objectives. Airmen from all across the Air Force contribute to expeditionary capabilities—from those who provide the deterrent umbrella under which the Air Force operates, to those who deploy, to those who operate the fixed facilities on which the service depends when reachback for support occurs.

In plain language, the Air Force has taken their combat wings (Active Duty, Reserves, and National Guard), and assigned them to one of ten AEFs. For example, AEF #1 might be composed of F-15 or F-16 flying squadrons and maintenance/support squadrons from multiple bases throughout the United States (both active and reserve). When it's time for that AEF to deploy, personnel from all of these different squadrons, located at different bases, will all deploy as one large organization. Everyone knows in advance when their particular AEF deployment "window" is, based on what AEF their Wing (base) has been assigned to be part of. If a deployment is required within that window, they know that the AEF they are assigned to are going to be the ones that go. This eliminates much of the "no-notice" deployments of the past.

Let's say you're a Supply Troop, and you're assigned to the XYZ Fighter Wing at Boondocks Air Force Base, Texas, in the 123 Supply Squadron. Your Wing belongs to AEF #1, and the rotation schedule shows you're AEF is subject to deployment during March through June. If a deployment is necessary during that period, your AEF will be the one tasked, so you know when your primary eligibility for deployment will happen.

As part of the AEF, your squadron commander will receive a "tasking order" that tells him/her exactly what your squadron's "share" of the deployment is. In other words, the commander will receive a UTC (Unit Task Code) that tells him/her just how many 3-level apprentice Supply Troops to deploy, how many 5-level Technician Supply Troops to Deploy, and how many 7-level Supervisor Supply Troops to supply for the deployment.

Based on this requirement your squadron/base will provide what it has, or respond back and say they don't have them or request a waiver for skill levels (for example, if they don't have enough 5-level Supply Troop Technicians, they may ask to send some 3-level Supply Troop apprentices in their place). In most cases, commanders do not like to deploy 3-level apprentices, unless they are already well-established through their OJT (on the job training) program, toward their five skill level. Sometimes commanders simply don't have a choice in the matter, because they strive to fill the requirements of the UTC.

As I said, ten deployable AEFs have been constituted. Two AEFs, trained to task, are always deployed or on call to meet current national requirements, while the remaining forces train, exercise, and prepare for the full spectrum of operations. AEFs provide joint force commanders with ready and complete air and space force packages that can be tailored to meet the spectrum of contingencies thus ensuring situational awareness, freedom from attack, freedom to maneuver, and freedom to attack. They either fit into established theater-based command and control structures, when available, or bring their own command and control when needed.

In addition, the Air Force maintains a total of five bomber group leads (BGL) to support the oncall AEFs, as well as oncall lead wings to open expeditionary bases. In a smaller-scale contingency, one AEF task force can provide intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and command and control of air and space forces over an area roughly half the size of Texas. The AEF can provide air superiority while striking some 200 targets per day. One AEF can surge to provide these capabilities 24 hours a day. More AEFs can be added, expanding the space it can control and contributing to the Air Force’s ability to transition rapidly from contingency operations to MTW.

Some of the above information derived from Air Force Pamphlet 36-2241, Volume 1


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