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Kenney Headquarters maximizes support to joint warfighters

Lt. Col. Curt Walker (left), Wing Commander Sumana Chulamokha, Group Capt. Suwit Wattanaroek (standing) and Group Capt. Noi Parkperm coordinate air operations at the Gen. George C. Kenney Headquarters during the 25th annual Cobra Gold exercise on Tuesday, May 23, 2006. The exercise is hosted by Thailand at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, from May 15 to 26. It demonstrates the planning, execution and reach-back capabilities the headquarters can provide in a contingency. Colonel Walker is with the combat operations division at Kenney Headquarters and the three Thai officers are with the Royal Thai Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Yvonne Levardi)

Lt. Col. Curt Walker (left), Wing Commander Sumana Chulamokha, Group Capt. Suwit Wattanaroek (standing) and Group Capt. Noi Parkperm coordinate air operations at the Gen. George C. Kenney Headquarters during the 25th annual Cobra Gold exercise on Tuesday, May 23, 2006. The exercise is hosted by Thailand at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, from May 15 to 26. It demonstrates the planning, execution and reach-back capabilities the headquarters can provide in a contingency. Colonel Walker is with the combat operations division at Kenney Headquarters and the three Thai officers are with the Royal Thai Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Yvonne Levardi)

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (AFPN) --

The Gen. George C. Kenney Headquarters reaches its one-year anniversary June 1.

Known as KHQ, the headquarters staff commands air, space and information operations for joint forces throughout the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Korea. Consisting of three elements -- the Pacific Air Operations Center, the Pacific Air Force Forces staff and a support group -- the KHQ staff plans and executes air operations ranging from humanitarian assistance to full-scale combat for the commanders of Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Pacific Command.

As the KHQ commander, Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula commands forces such as the fighter and bomber deployments that are part of the theater security plan and Air Force units participating in international exercises. He controls Air Force and other service air forces assigned to KHQ involved in missions including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. For contingencies and exercises, he takes on the roles of joint forces air component commander and joint task force commander.

“In a nutshell, our mission is to project peace, power and presence," General Deptula said.

“The Kenney Headquarters fills a previous void at the operational level of war and for humanitarian operations,” General Deptula said. “While major commands such as PACAF focus on their mission to organize, train and equip, the Air Force’s warfighting headquarters provide combatant commanders with a ready-to-act command and control capability 24/7/365. Never again will we commence a no-notice contingency from a standing start.”

The concept to turn several numbered air forces into warfighting headquarters was introduced in the summer of 2002 by then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper in response to the challenges of the 21st century and the war on terrorism.

The KHQ lineage is from 13th Air Force, but the majority of staff came from PACAF with some from 5th Air Force and 11th Air Force. It is currently a provisional unit that has been fully engaged since its creation. In Operation Unified Assistance, the Asian tsunami relief effort that began in December 2004, the Airmen who became the KHQ staff first tested the concept.

“Unified Assistance really brought home the importance of having one commander to command and control air operations in a contingency situation,” said Col. Mark Tapper, the KHQ chief of staff, who commanded PACAF's 502nd Air Operations Group during the relief effort.

“By capitalizing on unity of effort and command we were able to quickly and effectively respond and provide relief to people who needed it immediately," Colonel Tapper said. "That kind of operation is the heart of Kenney Headquarters. It’s about a unified effort that combines our joint and allied air forces to accomplish the combatant commander’s objectives.”

KHQ has responded to several real-world contingencies in the Pacific theater. Its successes include: humanitarian support to the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the island of Comoros, the Philippines and to the state of Hawaii; planning and coordination for Global Hawk operations; and planning a response in the event of an avian influenza pandemic. The new unit also provided the joint forces air component commander and the air operations center operational control over security-presence fighter aircraft and continuous bomber presence deployments.

One of the primary roles of the KHQ is to provide plans to react, execute and succeed in more than 15 potential contingency situations. Designed for flexibility, the KHQ staff can assemble a team from local Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve assets or pull resources from other bases or major commands. KHQ also incorporates players from other U.S. military services and coalition forces into their operations as needed.

To remain effective, KHQ maintains an operational staff around the clock, eliminating reaction time to respond to crises.

The fully capable air operations center provides the ability to plan and execute theater-wide air and space operations. With the Pacific air operations center, KHQ staff are able to achieve a level of cooperation, coordination and overall command and control never before experienced.

As the military gets leaner, determining who will be selected as the functional air component commander will depend more on which service component has optimal command and control capabilities rather than the number of forces assigned.

As an example, in June Air Force fighters, bombers and support aircraft, three Navy carrier strike groups, a Marine air wing and the Coast Guard will participate in Valiant Shield 2006, an exercise designed to enhance joint combat skills and interoperability. General Deptula will be the joint forces air component commander for Adm. Gary Roughead, the joint task force commander. Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines will work together in the Pacific Air Operations Center at Hickam to command all air assets over Guam.

Exercises give KHQ staff an opportunity to practice joint force plans and operations with all the services, plus build valuable inroads for multinational coordination efforts. The KHQ staff interacts with countries throughout the region, demonstrating the Air Force’s new capabilities while enhancing U.S. strategic relationships.

During the 25th annual Cobra Gold ‘06 exercise, hosted by Thailand May 15 to 26, the Thais and Singaporeans are seeing the headquarters’ planning, execution and reach-back capabilities for the first time. Air Vice Marshall Srichown Chanruang, a Thai two-star general, is serving as the exercise’s forward deployed combined forces air component commander and Brig. Gen. Greg Ihde, KHQ vice commander, is serving as the exercise’s deputy CFACC.

The Kenney Headquarters creation is one piece of the ongoing Air Force transformation that aims to optimize joint warfighting. It is one of the first examples of how consolidation and centralization of base operating support and policy functions will provide reach-back support and guidance more efficiently.

“Building on a proud warfighting heritage and a legacy of service, we are transforming into a more compact, lethal 21st century Air Force, built for agility, speed and precision,” said Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force chief of staff.

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