Lessons of war drive Air Force doctrine

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Eric M. Grill
  • Electronic Systems Center Public Affairs
The Air Force uses the lessons "learned from the blood, sweat, tears, and sometimes death of Americans in the skies" to prepare its doctrine, said Maj. Gen. Dave MacGhee, commander of the Air Force Doctrine Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.

MacGhee visited here recently to discuss what Air Force doctrine is and how it applies to everyone in the Air Force.

"Air and space doctrine shapes the manner in which the Air Force organizes, trains, equips, and sustains its forces," he said. "Doctrine prepares us for future uncertainties and, combined with our basic shared core values, provides a common set of understandings on which airmen base their decisions."

"Doctrine is critically important to the future of the United States Air Force and our role as one of the prime defenders of our great nation," said Lt. Gen. Bill Looney, Electronic Systems Center commander. "For the last 40 to 50 years, the U.S. Air Force has essentially ignored the development of operational-level doctrine. It wasn't until General Ron Fogelman's tenure as Air Force chief of staff that the Air Force got serious about our doctrine. Since then we've made tremendous progress in this vitally important area."

Doctrine, MacGhee said, "is about how you organize, present and employ forces."

Besides lessons learned from battle, it is also a result of exercises and war games.

MacGhee said that Air Force doctrine establishes guidelines for employing forces in a joint environment.

"Airmen work for airmen," he said. "Everyone recognizes that air and space require a unique competence that only airmen have. When you're talking about employing air and space power, you need to find an airman.

"Our doctrine should be flexible and adaptive," MacGhee said. "It is about preserving our nation's treasure, not being a treasure. It's about what's important, not who's important. It's about how to organize, not organizations. It's not about whether you own the medium of air and space, but how you effectively utilize that air and space to complete your mission."

MacGhee said people should learn doctrine because it provides for a common language, which he considers essential for communication.

"It explains how to best organize and employ within the air and space environment," he said. "It provides a consistent 'tell-all' approach to warfighting."

This applies to Hanscom people because, "you can better understand your warfighting customer if you learn how they fight," MacGhee said.

"The U.S. Air Force was born out of technology," he said. "We are not afraid of change ... because we grew up in a service that is changing every day. We just have to manage that change."

MacGhee specifically said that the Air Force now refers to an AEF as an air and space expeditionary force rather than the "aerospace expeditionary force" that was used in previous years.

"The use of 'air and space' (versus) 'aerospace' recognizes the inherent differences of air and space, while we continue to work very hard at integrating air and space effects."

MacGhee said that as the nature of war changes, so will Air Force doctrine.

"At the heart of warfare is doctrine," he said.