By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Nov. 19, 2004) -- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper told House Armed Services Committee members that while reconstitution of air expeditionary forces is not moving as quickly as expected, the concept is battle-proven.
The Air Force's highest-ranking uniformed member testified before the House of Representatives on Nov. 17 on the current state of the service.
"Last February, when I sat in front of this committee, we talked about the reconstitution of our air expeditionary forces and the fact that we were in the midst of experimenting to see if the AEF concept actually worked," General Jumper told more than 30 legislators. "I can report our ability to pull eight of our 10 AEFs forward to engage in major combat operations, and then reset those, has been a success."
General Jumper also explained to legislators how the Air Force recently increased the AEF deployment length.
"We have (extended) our deployment time from 90 to 120 days," he said. "We have about 80 percent of our force on 120-day rotation. About 20 percent of the high-demand forces are on rotations (lasting) up to one year."
The general told committee members that while visiting deployed Airmen and troops of their sister services, he picked up on a common theme.
"I have been to Iraq and visited the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines over there," General Jumper said. "The singular message I bring back from them is 'let's not quit until we are done.' They believe that. They are dedicated to the mission they are engaged in over there and want to see it through."
Committee members asked about retention and recruiting numbers. General Jumper said the Air Force has been very successful.
"We are enjoying excellent results in our recruiting and retention," General Jumper said. "As a matter of fact, one of the problems is that our end strength is more than it should be. We will spend the next year working down to our authorized end strength of 360,000."
Efforts to reduce the total Air Force to the authorized end strength are part of the service's force-shaping initiative. Force shaping includes reduction through retirement or separation, but it also involves moving Airmen from career fields with overages into career fields with shortages. Air Force officials have been quick to say that while they work to pare down membership, they will keep in mind the desires of those affected.
"In order to keep from breaking faith with those who want to stay in the Air Force, we are going to take most of this from our initial recruiting," General Jumper said. "We have a plan to do that; I think it is going to work. I don't want to kick out any Airmen who want to stay. They have shown us great loyalty, and I want to return that loyalty to them."
Finally, General Jumper commented on the departure of Secretary of the Air Force Dr. James G. Roche. Secretary Roche announced his resignation Nov. 16.
"I must say I am very proud to have served with Dr. Roche during his tenure," General Jumper said. "I have never seen anyone who cared more about the nation's Airmen than Dr. Roche.”