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USAFE gains two units under realignment plan

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFPN) -- A major command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, is gaining two new units with the implementation of the Unified Command Plan on Oct. 1.

The 65th Air Base Wing at Lajes Air Base, Azores, and the 85th Group at Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland, will transition from Air Combat Command to USAFE as part of the Department of Defense realignment of unified command responsibilities.

The U.S. European Command, of which USAFE is the air component, is the most heavily impacted command under the revised plan. USAFE will gain responsibility for Iceland, Greenland, the Azores, more than half of the Atlantic Ocean from the U.S. Joint Forces Command, and the previously unassigned areas of the Russia Federation and the Caspian Sea.

"This will be the first time a United States unified warfighting command has ever included Russia in its (area of responsibility)," said Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, commander in chief of USEUCOM and supreme allied commander, Europe. "This new plan is a natural outgrowth from post cold war relationships and fosters enhanced relationships with former adversaries that are now among our strongest partners. This is strong testament to the encouraging evolution of the relationships we've developed over the years with Russia."

USEUCOM previously had 91 countries in its area of responsibility, ranging from the tip of Norway to the southern tip of South Africa. Now with the new Unified Command Plan, USEUCOM will have responsibility for 93 countries; Azores is considered part of Portugal and Greenland is a protectorate under Denmark.

"The change will increase our military-to-military relations with Russia and the scope of our cooperation," said Lt. Col. Colleen Ryan, bases branch chief for the USAFE headquarters directorate of plans.

This is an awesome opportunity for USAFE, she said. "To think of Russia and all that goes on there and the new things this enables USAFE to do, especially concerning our role in cooperation."

Much remains to be accomplished after the transition, especially with bringing two additional Air Force units into USAFE.

"There are still things that will have to be worked out after the transition," said Ryan.

"We hope the changes are transparent, but naturally there will be some changes as far as how (the units) operate," she said. "So we sent project task forces to both locations...to ensure the transition is smooth for all concerned. We just can't say, OK, we're done and you guys are USAFE."

The new plan will increase USAFE's areas of interest, duties, responsibilities and support, said Lt. Col. Bill Mosley, chief of doctrine and strategy for the USAFE headquarters directorate of plans. "Both units, the 65th Air Base Wing at Lajes and Keflavik's 85th Group, will fall under 3rd Air Force, which is headquartered at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England."

But the units will continue doing their mission in place as they currently do, Mosley said.

The command and the units have until Feb. 1 to finish the administrative details, he said.

"This gives folks time to work out the various agreements, memoranda of understanding, and other changeovers as needed."

Mosley said the missions at Lajes and Keflavik will remain the same -- to provide support to intertheater and transient aircraft and to support the air defense and air rescue missions, respectively. (Courtesy of USAFE News Service)

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