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Document created: 1 September 06
Air & Space Power Journal - Fall 2006
Senior Leader Perspective
Gen Tom Hobbins, USAF
SINCE I TOOK command of US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Air Component Command Ramstein (CC-Air Ramstein), I have been highly impressed with both the commitment and performance of the men and women of those extremely busy, continuously engaged commands. Their level of activity and breadth of involvement are simply staggering. Our goal is to fly, fight, and win as a value-recognized member of an interdependent team of allies, services, and coalition partners. History has proven that we are most successful when we combine our capabilities to achieve common security interests.
As I look to the future, I see only increasing opportunities to further develop and strengthen our interdependent relationships to address future security challenges. USAFE is heavily engaged with our sister services, allies, and partners in forging an interdependent team. We’re making great strides in transforming our own USAFE operations to ensure we are postured for both present and future challenges: reorganizing our headquarters, improving regional interaction and security through our theater security cooperation (TSC) programs, and integrating ground-component operations with our own. NATO is undergoing profound changes as well: moving beyond its borders, committing to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and adopting a posture to support the NATO Response Force (NRF).
USAFE is currently in the process of transforming its numbered air forces and restructuring its management headquarters to produce world-class, full-spectrum, joint-war-fighting structures linked together in a collaborative-planning network. USAFE’s new Warfighting Headquarters (WFHQ) supports contingency operations theaterwide. As the combined/joint air component, the WFHQ serves as the Airman’s single voice to the combatant commander. Our WFHQ actively supports humanitarian and security operations within the area of responsibility. In one operation, its members transported 404 Polisario Front prisoners of war (held captive for more than 20 years in Algeria) back home to Morocco. In another, the WFHQ provided continuous security-monitoring operations for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. Our headquarters surveys and assesses potential operating locations across the entire area of responsibility for future engagements and training opportunities. From providing forces for NATO’s air-policing efforts to medical teams for manned space-recovery operations in Kazakhstan, the WFHQ truly lives up to its name.
At the same time, we stood up Air Command Europe, our management headquarters, to execute the daily “organize, train, and equip” mission, keeping our forces ready to provide sovereign options to our leaders across the spectrum of conflict. By developing both a war-fighting and management headquarters, we support the combatant commander more efficiently by leveraging technology and executing air, space, and cyberspace power with minimal transition from peacetime to full-combat operations. We are in transition toward highly effective force presentations. I anticipate more changes as we move from a war-fighting headquarters to a numbered-air-force construct that allows the combatant commander to choose from both joint force commander and combined/joint force air component commander leadership options.
But USAFE’s focus does not stop at our headquarters. Continuous theater engagement and strategic presence remain one of our goals, and our TSC program has proven critical in the global war on terrorism, delivering operational access for basing; increasing training opportunities; and enhancing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) collaboration through the establishment of cooperative relationships. In fiscal year 2005 alone, USAFE conducted over 500 separate TSC events, engaging 66 of the 91 countries in our theater. Our engagements have produced tangible results as part of European Command’s (EUCOM) “move south and east” strategy. On the eastern front, we are heavily engaged with countries such as Romania and Bulgaria—new NATO allies strategically located on the Black Sea, where 25 percent of Europe’s energy needs transit each day. In Romania, two years of hard work by USAFE and EUCOM personnel culminated in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s signing the Defense Cooperation Agreement between our two nations. Such agreements are forging the creation of the Eastern European Task Force, which will provide deployment and training opportunities in the region as well as bring together air and ground units as part of a light, lean, lethal, and agile force. Having such a force structure in Eastern Europe has the additional benefit of serving as the template against which our new NATO allies can model their own transformation efforts.
To the south, we are putting the “face of America” on humanitarian, ISR, and contingency operations in Africa. USAFE C-130s have airlifted four battalions from Kigali, Rwanda, to the Darfur region in support of the African Union Mission in Sudan—another great, interdependent effort. USAFE provides the airlift capability, Rwanda provides the troops, and together we enable this mission to get off the ground. We continuously engage with the State Department and EUCOM in Operation Enduring Freedom / Trans-Sahara. Through multiple TSC events, we assist willing partners (Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia) in their struggle to prevent the development of support networks for terrorists. We do this by providing actionable intelligence to help host nations combat terrorist enclaves that take advantage of ungoverned spaces in the region.
This drive south and east becomes possible only by expanding our mobility-throughput capability. Just last year, in partnership with Germany and NATO, USAFE closed historic Rhein-Main Air Base (AB), Germany, and transferred its mission to Ramstein AB and Spangdahlem AB, Germany. Ramstein has become the new “Gateway to Europe,” infused with world-class, technologically advanced cargo-handling facilities and support infrastructure. With its new mobility ramp and passenger terminal, Spangdahlem has become the new “gas and go” surge facility in-theater. Together, they eclipse the former capability of Rhein-Main and position USAFE to better support current and future mission requirements.
Our relationship with our sister component, the US Army in Europe (USAREUR), continues to grow. Last year, our airlift moved US and Russian ground troops to the training facility at Grafenwoehr, Germany, to take part in the largest combined ground-force exercise since the end of the Cold War. This year we’ll do it again, moving 300 USAREUR personnel and supplies to Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, for a field-training exercise at the Mulino Training Area. Here at USAFE, we’ve also welcomed the 19th Battlefield Coordination Detachment (BCD). Recognizing the critical role of the BCD in joint operations, the Army and Air Force service chiefs agreed to align BCDs and Air Force “Falconer” air and space operations centers (AOC) within each geographic combatant command.
This new concept for integrating ground operations into daily AOC battlefield coordination has created a leaner, shorter, and more flexible cycle for air tasking orders. We have cut planning for the interaction and support between air and ground assets that assist in counterinsurgency operations from 72 to 44 hours. Our 32d AOC recently deployed to the combined air operations center in Al Udeid and, along with BCD personnel, proved the effects of this integration in 25 named operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom and 10 named operations in Enduring Freedom. Within the first week of arrival, an Airman analyst in the ISR Division found a rather obscure human-intelligence report of a suspected weapons cache. Quickly grasping its potential impact, he nominated the facility for collection and passed the information to corps headquarters in Baghdad, which thought the information credible enough to conduct a raid. AOC/BCD personnel then undertook the planning process for the operation. In the end, an Army patrol found three weapons caches at that site, eliminating dozens of rockets that the enemy would have used to attack our troops and air bases. This potentially life-saving intelligence might have been lost or delayed under the previous structure.
Down the road, we anticipate integrating our operations even further by incorporating A-10 and F-16C airframes that have received the Enhanced Position Locating Reporting System into the Army Stryker Brigade Combat Team, bringing airpower into the Joint Mission Capability Package concept. We envision Bradley, Abrams, Stryker, A-10, and F-16C crews all tied together in a common ISR, targeting, and support network both on and above the battlefield.
NATO has also made great progress in transforming its Cold War capability, taking on the most challenging and interesting missions of its history. Engaged in operations on three continents, NATO is delivering on some of the operational concepts borne of the 2002 Prague summit. Accordingly, CC-Air Ramstein supports NATO’s expanding commitment to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan in partnership with Enduring Freedom. ISAF offers a great example of interdependence, with 36 NATO and non-NATO nations working together to help the Afghan government establish a safe and secure environment in support of reconstruction efforts.
In addition, CC-Air Ramstein is providing air forces for the NRF—one of the most visible transformational efforts within NATO—giving the alliance a rapidly deployable combined-arms capability. Such an agile force will enable NATO to respond proactively to the broad spectrum of threats we face today. This new, expeditionary-minded NRF has delivered humanitarian-aid supplies, ranging from blankets to water pumps to mobile medical teams, from over 40 NATO and partner nations to victims of natural disasters in both the United States and Pakistan. NATO aircraft also patrol the sovereign airspace of new allies that do not have their own organic air-policing capability. Just a few months ago in Lithuania, German F-4s handed the Baltic air-policing mission to USAFE F-16s, which then passed the responsibility to Polish MiG-29s and then to Turkish F-16s. These operations prove that together we can combine capabilities to limit each ally’s vulnerabilities.
Bolstering security and stability in the world has never been more important. Through proactive transformation and investment, USAFE and NATO will continue to develop value-added relationships with other services, partners, and allies to achieve common goals. Our strength, through interdependence, resides in our ability to leverage our best practices to deliver decisive results; we are making superb progress.
Serving as commander in this theater is a great honor. I am grateful for the opportunity to lead these wonderful Airmen, and I am very proud of their service to our nation and the NATO alliance.
|Gen Tom Hobbins (BS, University of Colorado; MBA, Troy State University) is commander of US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE); commander of Air Component Command, Ramstein Air Base, Germany; and director of the Joint Air Power Competency Center, Ramstein. He previously served as deputy chief of staff for war-fighting integration, Headquarters US Air Force, Washington, DC. General Hobbins has commanded two tactical fighter wings, a composite air group, Twelfth Air Force, and air-component commands for US Strategic Command and US Southern Command. Additionally, he has served as director of plans and operations for US Forces Japan, director of plans and policy for US Atlantic Command, and director of operations for USAFE. A command pilot, he has more than 4,440 flying hours, primarily in fighter aircraft. General Hobbins is a graduate of Squadron Officer School, Armed Forces Staff College, and Air War College.|
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University
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