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AF committing 2,000 airmen to war

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Jan. 13, 2004) -- Airmen vulnerable to deploy as part of the Silver Air and Space Expeditionary Force but not originally asked to go, could end up going after all.

In a message sent to the major commands in late December, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper said continuing efforts in the war on terrorism have created a need for additional support in some areas. The Air Force, he said, would be providing some of the support to fill that need.

"Ongoing warfighter requirements compel the Air Force to continue surge operations in some functional areas … to ensure national military objectives are met," General Jumper said. "The secretary of defense has tasked us to find innovative solutions to this national challenge. Major commands and wings are encouraged to dig deep into their resources and develop risk mitigation plans to make these forces available."

One of the possible solutions involves the use of “joint-sourcing” to fill needed positions. That means all the services will work together to meet the requirements. The effort will touch many across the Air Force, said Col. Michael Scott, chief of War Plans Organization.

"This of course affects the entire Air Force to a certain degree, but more so in the agile combat support arena," Colonel Scott said. "By that I mean our engineers, firefighters, air traffic control, security forces, medical, communications and transportation folks."

Nearly 2,000 airmen in those support areas will be called upon to help the Air Force meet the joint-sourcing challenge, the colonel said.

Most of the 2,000 airmen will come out of already scheduled AEFs and should already know they are in or approaching their deployment eligibility window, said Col. Buck Jones, deputy director for air and space expeditionary force matters.

"Once you get down to the individual level, they may not know they are going to fill one of these requirements, but they do know they are part of the Silver AEF and are still susceptible. They may also come from AEF 7/8 or AEF 9/10," Colonel Jones said.

Many troops could expect to be deployed for about 90 days, but some, in stressed fields, could expect a 179-day rotation, Colonel Jones said.

Despite the continued surge in operations, Colonel Jones said most of the Air Force could expect a return to the AEF battle rhythm by March.

"We still will deploy AEF 7/8 very close to on schedule," Colonel Jones said. "The vast majority of the Air Force is returning to the AEF battle rhythm starting with AEF 7/8 in March."

The Air Force battle rhythm refers to the scheduled rotation of the 10 AEFs over the course of a 15-month cycle. The AEF schedule is projected out until 2010 and is designed to provide stability and predictability to airmen supporting Air Force commitments worldwide.

While there may be a predicted return to the AEF battle rhythm, Colonel Jones said things may never be the same as they were before operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

"Since the AEF was first established, world events have not stayed static," Colonel Jones said. "I'm not sure anybody envisions us returning to an old steady-state Operation Northern Watch/Operation Southern Watch type of situation around the world. The requirements are going to be fluid and dynamic."

Fortunately the Air Force has tool for handling unpredictable requirements -- the AEF, Colonel Jones said.

"Over the next few months, the Air Force will deliver on its promise to help meet the joint-sourcing requirements for operations in Southwest Asia," Colonel Jones said. "It is the AEF, doing what it is designed to do, that makes that possible. Once again, the AEF is demonstrating its inherent ability to flex and to adapt."