16th Air Force stands up at Ramstein

Monica Mendoza
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***For the past year, Ramstein has been home to one of eight warfighting headquarters – an organization ready for combat at a moment’s notice – for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and the U.S. European Command.

Warfighting headquarters are a new concept in the Air Force, one that has regionally located organizations focused exclusively on planning and fighting war.

In November, the warfighting headquarters at Ramstein was given its formal name, the 16th Air Force. Brigadier General Philip Breedlove, 16th AF vice commander, said the new 16th AF honors history with its name, but is not to be confused with the former 16th AF, previously headquartered in Aviano, Italy. Focused on operations from non-combatant evacuation, humanitarian relief and crisis response, the new 16th AF is part of an Air Force-wide transformation that has warfighting headquarters responsible for operational missions only, shedding support activities such as base management responsibilities, said Capt. Joel Harper, 16th AF public affairs officer.
“The intent is to have a staff that plans for and accomplishes warfighting 24/7 without worrying about routine organize, train and equip functions such as base support facilities and policy,” Captain Harper said.

General Breedlove said the warfighting headquarters concept was born from the idea that warfighting preparation cannot be static, and instead must be dynamic, able to change with the situation, especially for the new Global War on Terrorism.

Part of the new structure is to standardize the way warfighting headquarters are organized and to have a staff ready to work with their Air Force major commands and joint force combatant commanders.

“We learned some lessons after the Air War over Serbia,” General Breedlove said. “We were not organized to transition from peace to war.”

The old methods for transitioning to combat dated back to Cold War days when the military was Garrison-centric. Preparation from recent conflicts resembled a sandlot pickup game of ball, General Breedlove said.

“We had to grab people from here, from there,” he said. “Now, we have established teams who practice everyday war time missions. We are out of the pick-up game mentality.”

General John. P. Jumper, former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, wanted warfighting headquarters in all combatant commands that everyday were in the mode of being able to go to war or execute contingency missions at a moment’s notice, General Breedlove said.

“We are little more dynamic,” General Breedlove said.

And because warfighting is not just about shooting guns and dropping bombs, General Breedlove said, the 16th Air Force is also ready for non-combatant evacuations and human relief operations.

The 16th Air Force assisted in repatriation of Moroccan prisoners of war in August and in July and October organized missions that brought Rwandan troops to Sudan for humanitarian relief. In November, the 16th AF was key in the Pakistan earthquake relief efforts. And currently, the 16th AF is providing command and control in a NATO mission to assist the Baltic States of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia in an air policing mission.

In the coming year, General Breedlove expects to increase the staff at the 16th Air Force and by midyear the organization will be involved in a large exercise, Austere Challenge 06, which will be its certification exercise.

General Breedlove, a five time operational commander, said the emphasis for the 16th AF will be warfighting.

“We have people who are ready,” General Breedlove said. “We have a team prepared and ready to go right now.”