Multi-Capable Agile Combat Support Commanders Lt Col Christopher Jacobson and Lt Col Jon Millard
In his call to arms Accelerate Change or Lose, General Brown declared that “Our Air Force must accelerate change to control and exploit the air domain to the standard the Nation expects and requires from us.” One such change is a full revamp of the way the Air Force will deploy forces, called Air Force Force Generation (AFFORGEN). AFFORGEN will change the deployment cycle and will also change the force packages we present to a deployed commander. Agile Combat Support (ACS) capability is grouped into the following Force Element Alignments: Open the Airbase, Establish the Airbase, and Operate the Airbase. Additionally, AFFORGEN will also incorporate the Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concept of multi-capable Airmen. While ACE has been a cornerstone of Major Command (MAJCOM) operational readiness exercises in recent years, the question still remains: does the Air force effectively create multi-capable leaders to oversee the Establish the Airbase and Operate the Airbase force elements?
“To make AFFORGEN effective, the Air Force should invest in developing field grade officers in ACS career fields to be multi-capable leaders who can effectively lead Airmen to employ the required Force Element Alignments.”
In 2019, the Department of the Air Force (DAF) was tasked to build a capabilities-based force presentation construct. The AFFORGEN construct was created to better represent the DAF force capabilities of Mission Generation, Command and Control (C2) Force Elements, and ACS. These force capabilities are aligned with the pre-existing Air Force Element Alignments that were established by Air Force doctrine for opening an airbase. Specifically, ACS Force Element Alignments will be aligned to Air Expeditionary Task Force modules to provide the required Base Operating Support Integrator (BOS-I) for the associated phase (i.e., Open the Airbase, Establish the Airbase, or Operate the Airbase). In May 2021, Headquarters Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations announced that AFFORGEN will also include an additional force module: Robust the Airbase. While AFFORGEN identifies specialties required for each force module, it does not identify an associated command function. It can be assumed based on Air Force Doctrine that these force modules will be commanded by an Air Expeditionary Group and an Air Expeditionary Squadron. However, the rapid movement needed for ACE will require a multi-capable commander that can employ all ACS functions across various Air Expeditionary Task Force (AETF) module phases.
AFDP 3-36 (the 2019 publication has not yet been updated to include “Robust the Airbase” force module)
Air Combat Command (ACC) is focused on creating a squadron that provides dynamic ACS through multi-capable Airmen. The ACC concept is to create Air Base Squadrons (ABS) that provide BOS-I in small element packages. The ABS is described as the connective tissue between the need for ACE rapid deployment dispersal and AFFORGEN. Col Frank Marconi, ACC’s Logistics and Readiness Division Chief, explains the ABS is like a small Mission Support Group with logistics readiness, civil engineers, communications, contracting, and a capability to defend itself with security forces. But it also has additional capabilities like airfield operations and medical services. The ABS is designed to be a multi-capable squadron that provides various elements of BOS-I. As part of the AETF module, the ABS would be utilized across AFFORGEN. ACC explains that they are employing the ABS in a crawl, walk, run approach. However, the concept of a multi-capable BOS-I squadron is not new to the DAF. Air Forces Africa (AFAFRICA) is already using this concept through the Expeditionary Air Base Squadron (EABS).
EABSs are employed across Africa to oversee AFRICOM airbases. The mission of AFAFRICA is to execute the AFRICOM air component missions with forward-based airpower and infrastructure to conduct and enable theater and global operations. Airbases in Africa are utilized as power projection platforms on a continent plagued by austerity and distance. As a result, Air Expeditionary Groups are responsible for regions, and each airbase is commanded by a squadron commander. The command’s focus is not on which aircraft are assigned to a base but what the airbase can provide for a variety of platforms. The squadron charged to provide this task are the EABS.
Read the full paper in the Exceptional Release – Spring 2022 edition (Coming Soon)
Authors: Lt Col Chris Jacobson: Is a career Logistics Readiness Officer who has served in a variety of logistics positions around the world since commissioning in 2005. He is currently the 724 EABS commander in Niger, Africa. Prior to this assignment he was the 45 LRS commander at Patrick AFB, and a graduate in Multi-Domain Strategy at the Air Command Staff College.
Lt Col Jon Millard: Is a career Logistics Readiness Officer who has served in-garrison and deployed in multiple logistics functions across the world after receiving his commission in 2006. He is currently serving as the Chief of 21R Force Development on the HAF staff in Washington DC. Prior to this assignment, he was the 405 ESPTS commander at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan and a graduate from US Army Command and General Staff College.