USAFE observes 200 days of progress

Gen. Robert H.

***image1***We can be incredibly proud of USAFE’s accomplishments over the last six months. Chief Coleman and I are inspired by the intense mission focus and boundless enthusiasm demonstrated throughout the command, and we are encouraged by the progress at all levels.
At the strategic level, we focused on several major endeavors: development of a strategy for U.S. Air Forces in Europe for the next decade, reorganization of USAFE HQ, our theater engagement plan, and a measurement system to track our progress. The progress we make today is shaping how we’ll fight tomorrow. USAFE’s strategic presence and unparalleled readiness are key enablers for our nation, and the thrust behind our Air Force strategy for Europe. Based on national, joint, and USAF strategies and visions, our new strategic plan centers on four primary principles: our ability to influence global actions; readiness; theater engagement; and our ability to retain a leadership role in NATO. Our efforts embody these principles and ensure our forces are ready to meet the challenges of the future. We reorganized USAFE HQ by divesting it of those non-management HQ functions that had been attached — some 1,000 personnel / functions realigned from the strategic level to either the operational level or tactical level. We also identified those functions that could be streamlined by using reach-back to CONUS services, resulting in a significant number of functions migrating back to parent commands or HQ Air Force. These actions permit our HQ to more clearly focus on its mission — to provide policy, oversight, and evaluations on command units.
As part of the reorganization, we converted our headquarters to an A-Staff. This structure more clearly aligns with our parent command — EUCOM, our subordinate warfighting headquarters — Air Forces Europe, and our sister services. This realignment postures us to function as a warfighting headquarters and permits cleaner lines of communication across the spectrum of functions accomplished by USAFE Headquarters.
While squaring away HQ, we established and formalized our theater engagement plan to support CDRUSEUCOM’s vision of US military interaction with our allies and coalition partners. Execution of the plan resulted in USAFE / USAF assets visiting or operating in over 20 countries regarding several areas of interest for our air forces — safety, medical, operations, logistics, etc. An important part of this plan was the development of four engagement teams that are regionally focused and tailored to the appropriate topics of interest for the Air Forces of a particular region.
Lastly in the strategic realm, we developed and implemented a measurement system to determine whether USAFE is meeting its goals. This measurement system covers the spectrum of important functions within the command — readiness, quality of life, morale, and welfare. Each month we review our Combat and Special Interest Program metrics and some 23 other key indicators, covering everything from medical performance factors to mission capable rates. This system provides valuable insight into the health of the command and progress towards our goals.
We were equally as engaged at the operational level, as we made progress with our warfighting HQ, situational awareness, strategic footprint, and operational evaluation construct. We planned for, stood up, and certified a 24/7 warfighting headquarters. Called Air Forces Europe, or AFEUR, its mission is to provide theater planning, sustainment, and execution in the Global War on Terrorism, contingencies, and daily operations. As all of this was accomplished, over 550 USAFE HQ personnel were ear-tagged, and are in the process of being trained, to perform as part of a wartime construct for AFEUR. Eventually, AFEUR will assume the role and responsibilities currently performed by our Numbered Air Forces.
Situational awareness is a key aspect of AFEUR’s mission. We improved operational SA across the command by giving our flying units the appropriate mechanisms to receive command-wide data relative to Air Tasking Order / asset utilization. In addition to providing USAFE this “Big ATO”, we improved interoperability between the AFEUR Air and Space Operations Center and NATO. We dramatically increased our SA with access to key NATO C2 systems, including NATO’s Recognized Air Picture and ATO generation tool.
On another front, USAFE reinforced the strategic footprint of the USAF’s long-reach enablers by redistributing the leadership and C2 at RAF Fairford and Moron AB. These bases have been, and continue to be, very important in every recent contingency. Improving the C2 and robusting the leadership has had a direct impact at the operational level on the fight as these bases contribute to the broad operations in and across the EUCOM AOR.
As a final point, we conceived, developed, and implemented a no-notice operational evaluation construct to measure and critique the readiness of units across the command for events associated with GWoT. Called Euro Thunder, this initiative provides immediate feedback to commanders about unit tactical and operational readiness to counter events relevant to terrorist attacks.
At the tactical level, we provided significant capabilities to several contingency operations, transitioned our aeromedical evacuation mission, established USAFE University, and made noteworthy progress on several key mission enablers. In the last six months alone, we flew over 2,100 combat sorties totaling over 9,300 combat hours in support of OIF/OEF, JTF Liberia, and Balkans operations. We provided an aeromedical evacuation capability that moved over 5,200 OEF/OIF patients out of CENTCOM, and transported patients all over Europe. Our tactical airlift, tankers, fighters, and airmen, delivered airpower and services whenever, wherever needed.
Seamless to our contingency operations, in September of 2003 we successfully transitioned AE from a single-role airframe, the C-9 Nightingale, to the use of multi-role airframes. Within EUCOM our C-21s successfully took over 24/7 alert coverage for intra-theater movement of emergent patients. We accomplished other AE missions via a combination of C-21s, C-130s, opportune airlift, civilian air ambulances and creative solutions.
Creative solutions also helped us make remarkable progress with our Combat and Special Interest Programs, and other efforts. Results clearly indicate the command is focused and energized on key mission enablers: readiness, force development, services, and quality of life.
Four programs contributed to improvements in our readiness. As an example, Combat Flightline reduced the number of maintenance personnel working outside of their core duties by returning almost 40 airmen back to maintenance production, in addition to other flightline initiatives. USAFE HQ’s generals, colonels, and chiefs (and selects) were among the first in the command to taxi to the test ramp under our new AF Fitness testing guidelines. Thanks to Combat Fitness, they set the standard with an average score of 86 percent. Combat Care is gaining momentum to improve the care, attention, and information flow to spouses and family members affected by deployments, and to personnel deployed to USAFE. Lastly, we just initiated Project SMART (Smartly Managing Awareness, Risk, and Threats) to embed a safety culture and to help us manage our awareness of risk, actively combat the threats we face, and act smartly when we see something that needs to be fixed.
Improving services, like readiness, is more than just an enabler — it’s one of USAFE’s three primary goals. Our progress in this area is significant and far reaching. Over 700 targeted service professionals graduated from Customer College since its inception. The seeds are planted and improved customer service is already noticeable throughout the command. Combat Education initiatives are removing barriers to education — throughout USAFE nearly 50 percent of all college courses are now taught during non-standard times, and nearly 15 percent of all classes are offered outside traditional classroom locations. Project Wizard helped our libraries reach out to stock reading materials you desire, redirect their programs, and improve their services. We have over 2,500 registered volunteers with Hidden Heroes who logged in over 14,000 hours of service. Combat Intro / Exit streamlined requirements to minimize PCS stress and frustration. We reduced the number of inprocessing stops to three at all USAFE bases — down from as many as 15 stops at some locations. We are also on line with Virtual Outprocessing, which reduced the number of required outprocessing stops to an average of five per base. Finally, we responded to the need to improve the process for obtaining a US Forces Driver’s License in Germany. We engaged USAREUR to revise the driver license test, simplify study materials, and improve testing procedures — they responded. While all of this gets ironed out, commanders may now grant PCSing service members a waiver letter, allowing them to obtain a 30-day temporary license to ease in-processing and house hunting.
We are moving forward with two force development programs to provide professional growth via hands-on experience and one-on-one mentorship. All USAFE main operating bases executed daily Combat Nighthawk sorties, and we’re on track to reach 15 percent of the command’s CGOs and 15 percent of our Senior NCOs each quarter — breaking them out of their functional stovepipes to learn about unfamiliar elements of Air Force operations. Project Connect is our newest program designed to provide a forum for senior officer mentors to counsel and enhance the individual professional development of junior officer protégés on a one-on-one basis.
Also in the spirit of force development, we created USAFE University — a first-of-its-kind entity chartered to oversee all education and training programs and processes within the command — encompassing over 550 courses. A Board of Trustees, composed of HQ USAFE Directors, will advise the University President on command-level education and training issues. The Director of Personnel and Command Chief Master Sergeant will serve as Vice Presidents, and the Provost, the Chief of Education and Training, will be our belly button for all education and training issues within the command.
On a final note, we enhanced quality of life in numerous areas. Project CHEER provided 455 high-energy events serving over 46,000 airmen throughout the command during November and December alone. The Power Plant Project is a maturing initiative designed by airmen, for airmen. This concept is a welcomed opportunity for our younger airmen throughout the command to get involved and help establish facilities with programs and activities they want. Under Combat Touch, our Chaplains initiated over 67 programs, including 13 new flightline / work center offices / prayer spaces, and two coffee houses to reach the troops. Combat Proud changed the way we look at things and strengthened our commitment to improve our command’s appearance. While hard to quantify, it is easy to notice progress. Keep it up — outstanding achievement in facility pride-in-ownership will be recognized with cash awards during our upcoming Combat Proud competitions.
Chief Coleman and I ask that you stay engaged in these programs . . . they are based on enduring principles and help us stay energized and focused on increasing readiness, taking care of our people, and accomplishing the mission in an organized and effective way.
Considering what we accomplished together in just the past 200 days, it is easy to understand why our enemies lose sleep at night.