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Task force records Air Force's successes, mistakes in OEF

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2002) -- Task force records Air Force's successes, mistakes in OEFEven before the first bombs dropped in Afghanistan, the Air Force had an operation in place to ensure the lessons learned there would remain long after the war on terrorism had ended.

Task Force Enduring Look was conceived less than two weeks after the destruction of the World Trade Center towers. Directed by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper, the task force's mission is to document the Air Force's efforts in the war on terrorism -- including both the successes and the mistakes -- and to ensure those lessons are available for generations to come.

The task force, said its director, has a three-fold purpose.

"First and foremost," said Col. Fred Wieners, "is to support the warfighter. That's everybody from that young airman to the four-star combatant commander. We also want to tell the Air Force story; and, we also need to properly recognize those lessons that we need to learn."

The task force collects its data from many sources, including some 500 secure military Internet sites, other branches of the military, and points of contact at the different Air Force major commands, Wieners said. Enduring Look officials collect briefings, operations orders, deployment orders, and anything that can be put online.

The most important source of information, however, can't be shipped over wire or satellite. The airmen at the tip of the spear -- on the ground in Afghanistan -- should be directly consulted, said Wieners.

"We feel these reports have to be written by airmen, for airmen, so we take trips into Afghanistan, and we talk to everyone there, from the senior-ranking Air Force commander to the men and women on the flightline, in services, or in security forces," he said. "You will find the real truth and the real lessons the closer to the tip of the spear that you go. We ask them 'What worked?' 'What didn't?' And 'If you could recommend one thing to the chief of staff of the United States Air Force, what would that be?'"

The task force intends to do in real time what similar task forces from other wars and military operations have done in months, and sometimes years, after the end of the conflict, Wieners said.

Besides the chronological, day-to-day reports of what is happening with the war effort, they produce reports containing information useful to commanders in the field today. Report topics include austere basing, global mobility, special operations forces, the collapse of the Taliban, and the air and space expeditionary force, specifically addressing what works and what does not.

One valuable lesson success story in Afghanistan was the ability of the Air Force to provide base operations support facilities early on.

"There is a tendency to want to put iron down first -- those weapons we can use to do harm to the enemy," Wieners said. "But it is important to find that right balance to ensure your people can survive, so that they can operate. It is a difficult challenge, especially at austere basing, as we saw in Central Asia.

"We accepted tremendous risks when this nation was attacked, and that was one of them. But this shows the mettle of our people. They adapted to the situation."

Wieners said the real success stories during Operation Enduring Freedom are all about versatility and flexibility.

"The real story and success to Enduring Freedom comes from having that versatile, flexible and expeditionary force that can rapidly deploy and seize the initiative," he said. "The folks at the tip of the spear would not be there, and we could not sustain them without the efforts of all the E-2s through E-5s in our Air Force who got the job done."

From the aerial port specialists to the security forces people to the civil engineers, Enduring Look will reflect that the support has been outstanding, Wieners said. Whenever a key question has come up, there have been airmen waiting with an answer.

"Who is setting up the tent city, or providing the water and the sanitation so that we can operate?" Wieners asked. "Who is doing the runway repair? At one base, a Red Horse team put down enough gravel for a ramp, enough material that you could build a road from the Pentagon to Langley Air Force Base, Va. These are awesome accomplishments. What other country could go halfway around the world and do that?"

The records will reflect, he said, that the accomplishments are a direct result of the caliber of people on the job.

"The ingenuity and flexibility, not to mention the brute-force level of effort, is always the war-winning quality our people bring to the fight," Wieners said.