The enlisted Airmen perspective: Success in the MDO world

  • Published
  • By Air Force Strategic Integration Group Enlisted Chiefs
The mission of the recently-formed Air Force Strategic Integration Group blends senior leader’s perspectives of The Force We Need, the Future of Multi-Domain Operations, and the Airmen We Need to implement lasting change across the service. These changes include direct and indirect improvements for our enlisted Airmen - the backbone of our Air Force, which may be hard to see.

Future conflict with a great power adversary will be multi-region, multi-nation, multi-component, multi-service, multi-combatant command, multi-domain, etc. While our Air Force has been engaged in various forms of conflict for many years, we have learned the complexity of operations across each of these “multi-s” continues to plague our enterprise with challenges.

To enhance the Air Force’s ability to conduct multi-domain operations, Chief of Staff of the Air Force General David Goldfein recognized the need for a three-pronged approach. First, motivate, develop and inspire healthy fighting formations, described in terms the effort to revitalize squadrons. Second, integrate, influence and lead joint forces; therefore, strengthening our joint leaders and teams. Finally have a multi-domain command and control capability, with expert personnel, to enhance our ability to conduct multi-domain operations.

Revitalizing the squadron

Addressing the heartbeat of our Air Force, revitalizing squadrons is an enterprise-wide effort to increase our Airmen’s readiness and lethality. The focus of this effort is to enrich unit culture across squadron and squadron-like organizations that embrace purpose-driven and inspirational leaders, while eliminating barriers to success and providing every Airman the tools and resources they need to do their jobs better. This effort begins at the grassroots level with our Airmen who are driving squadron culture and directly leading our enterprise towards success.

Field visits to 10 major commands, 25 bases and 3,886 peer-to-peer interviews advanced quick wins for the Air Force’s revitalizing squadrons’ initiative like wearing Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms and changes to the fitness assessment process.

Additional initiatives recently tasked across the enterprise is the reduction of ancillary training, cutting the number of Air Force Instructions, decreasing the amount of additional duties and more. All of these efforts are enveloped with a single purpose: to give back valuable time for Airmen to accomplish the unit’s clearly defined and understood mission. With whitespace added back into our Airmen’s daily agendas, we can unpack the most important part of this initiative, which is to develop inspirational and purpose-driven leaders.

Purpose-driven leadership development is a concept woven in the heart of every Airman. As stated in our Airman’s Creed, “we are wingmen, leaders and warriors.” Leadership development begins on day one at Lackland Air Force Base and across various officer development institutions. As an enterprise, we have placed the focus of purposeful leadership across all levels, where inspirational leaders are being purposefully developed and are having a direct impact on those accomplishing the mission. To formalize this initiative, wing commanders and command chiefs have been tasked to implement flight leadership development courses, and are responsible for identifying the types of Airmen our Air Force needs at higher leadership levels, while mentoring and grooming these Airmen earlier in their careers.

Strengthening joint leaders and teams

Readiness requires certification and qualification, while lethality requires mastery and expertise. Across the Air Force, there are Airmen at every level who contribute their mastery and expertise inside joint communities. Our Airmen are highly valued and integrated members of many joint teams, but we cannot rest on these laurels. We must continue to deliberately develop and better prepare our Airmen to influence and lead joint teams. Enlisted, officer, civilian and total force Airmen will see the Air Force’s efforts of Strengthening Joint Leaders and Teams manifested in a variety of ways over the next several years.

First, Airmen will see Air Force doctrine and competencies become better aligned to joint competencies and doctrine. Airmen will see these competencies reflected in the Continuum of Learning and our professional military education platforms. Air Education and Training Command along with HAF/A1, has begun the arduous work to create an education catalogue that will list opportunities for courses, classes and training; many of which will offer joint-focused development.

As Airmen advance through their careers, the Joint Talent and Tracking Management system woven into the MyVector platform will pull data from current and new human resource systems, and will also offer updatable fields to input and validate experience that has not been captured on existing systems. JTTM will serve as a valuable tool for Airmen, career field functional managers, assignment professionals and command teams who can identify, hire, place and deploy the right Airmen for the right opportunity at the right time.

Air Combat Command and 9th Air Force are standing up the first core Joint Task Force Headquarters to train, equip and organize a joint-staff certified and multi-functional team ready to integrate, influence and lead a Joint Task Force. Historically, it has taken upwards of six weeks to identify, certify and deploy a Joint Task Force, however the speed of operations in future fights and humanitarian relief efforts demands our Air Force be ready to integrate, influence and lead with credible joint-minded Airmen the moment they are called upon.

Multiple domain command and control

As the Air Force focuses on multi-domain operations, many discussions surfaced about the new officer Air Force Specialty Code, 13O, being established to lead the Multi-Domain Command and Control effort in Air Operations Centers. There is also an enlisted force spanning several AFSCs that are critical to the command and control of MDO: 1B4, 1C3, 1C5, 1C6, and 1NXX, to name a few. Each of these enlisted AFSCs already execute many missions vital to MDO.

Mission execution across the Air Force is extremely manpower intensive and needs automation to enable MDC2 experts to make decisions faster. Our ability to increase decision speed will prevent our enemies from defending themselves from multiple dilemmas, within multiple domains, simultaneously. To speed up the MDC2 process, the Air Force must first address the storage and sharing of operational and intelligence data. From there, the Air Force must embrace the use of artificial intelligence and machine-to-machine learning programs to decrease decision times from hours and minutes, to seconds and nano-seconds. The service is attacking this problem on two fronts.

The first method addresses Airmen currently holding any one the five AFSCs described above, plus the 3DXXX AFSC, to be vectored by their command team for Multi-Domain Operations (M-Prefix). A pre-requisite for this vectoring is the Airman must have at least 12-months experience in an Air Operations Center. Once approved, the M-prefix will then be attached to their AFSC for the remainder of their career.

The second method is reserved for 1B4, 1C3, 1C5, 1C6 and 1NXX Airmen who attend a career-broadening course involving a different domain (Air, Cyber or Space) than their primary AFSC courses. Airmen can attend a course taught by one of the other functions, or they can attend the new MDC2 course being developed at Keesler AFB in the Command and Control Technical School House. The new AETC-certified course is scheduled to begin in June 2019 and taught to Airmen who work in the AOC. Once the course is completed, and the member serves in the AOC for 12 months (at least six of those months preceding course attendance), they will be awarded the Special Experience Identifier - 907, identifying them as an MDC2 specialist.

Bottom line for our fellow enlisted Airmen

You work and live at the unit-level. With the Air Force’s revitalizing squadrons effort, we are looking to create white space. Whether we are reducing AFIs, reengineering our ancillary training model, relooking at additional duties, etc., most of this initiative is to give time back to Airmen. This time is value added to become more productive, more resilient, ready, lethal and connected. We believe this effort will train current and future leaders better than we have done in the past. Our goal is to create viable and healthy squadrons with strong leadership