Crushing ISIS: Air power operations in a complex battle space

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  • By Staff Sgt. Megan Friedl
  • Defense Media Activity
Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, discussed the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria during the 2017 Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference, Sept. 18, 2017.

Since assuming command in July 2016, Harrigian has directed operations to defeat ISIS, to include the liberation of Mosul and the ongoing fight to liberate Raqqa and the remaining ISIS held territory within Iraq and Syria.

“Crushing ISIS,” he said. “Let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind that’s what we are doing and that’s what this is about.”

According to Harrigian, part of the AFCENT mission is distributing, with precision, 150 to 175 weapons a day with support from a targeting teams across the U.S.

“We got to have action that moves us forward, solves our problems and ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s about winning,” said Harrigian. “That’s what our Airmen provide for us.”

He detailed the operational complexities of the environment that coalition forces deal with on the ground every day.

Harrigian emphasized a leader’s role in every mission is to provide guidance and intent, then Airmen execute the mission on the tactical side.

“It gets back to empowering our team. When I talk about empowering, there’s a trust factor,” he said. “You’re going to make a decision and I’ll back you up.”

For the last 20 years Airmen resorted to using a seven foot wide whiteboard to monitor airspace. As technology progressed, Airmen on the ground developed the Tanker Planning Tool.

“[This tool] allowed them to focus on good quality mission planning,” Lt. Col Enrique Oti, Defense Innovation Unit Experimental director said. “It allowed for changes in the plan…they could run through multiple different options and try different scenarios.”

Harrigian imparted how his team is providing air superiority, and failure to achieve that mission endangers the joint force while increasing the cost of achieving victory against ISIS .

“At the end of the day, this is all about providing security and stability for those that have to live in this part of the world,” Harrigian said. “I’m privileged to be a part of this team. It’s been an experience, personally for me unlike anything I’ve ever had a chance to be a part of, and I’m just a small part of a great team that’s winning.”