In the command room overlooking the combat operations division, a computer monitor on the wall suddenly filled with blinking lights and symbols as ballistic missiles from the enemy launched at friendly targets. Communication equipment in the room burst to life as operators identified and tracked incoming threats. Third Air Force and 603rd Air and Space Operations Center leadership quickly voiced decisions and directed responses.
The training scenario held April 25 on Ramstein was a first for Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, 3rd Air Force commander, since assuming command late March. The 603rd AOC is charged with operational command and control of airpower supporting U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command. The general takes on the Area Air Defense Commander role as the Joint Forces Air Component Commander, explained Maj. Michael Ziska, 603rd AOC senior air defense officer.
“We talked about the European Phased Adaptive Approach,” said Ziska. “We discussed employment options and other responses to different crises and threats.”
The training showcased the capabilities of the AOC, a new 55,000 square-foot facility that opened October 2011. More than 400 people reside in the AOC, including the 19th Battlefield Coordination Detachment and elements of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command.
“The AOC is (General Franklin’s) capability we bring to him as command and control over the entire environment, both the European and Africa combatant commands,” said Ziska.
Ziska is the Area Air Defense Commander’s representative on the combat operations division floor in charge of the Defense Operations Cell, which integrates command and control of air and missile defense. This concept aligns with the Air Force’s core function of air superiority, and originated under defensive counterair.
“This is one of my most important missions,” said Franklin as he thanked members of the AOC conducting the training.
In addition to the operations scenario, the training included turnover coordination for Regional and Area Air Defense Commanders, and an overview of the ballistic missile defense architecture and related systems. The scenario and instruction are part of a continuing program the AOC facilitates to keep commanders proficient in their role as Area or Regional Air Defense Commanders, as well as to test equipment and procedures.
“It was really good to do hands-on training with Lt. Gen. Franklin,” said Ziska. “I think he left with a better understanding of the decision support systems available to him, and the fast-paced environment he’ll use them in.”