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AFSC merger ensures airborne situational awareness

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- With the fiscal constraints recently seen in the Air Force, many changes have taken place to safeguard the survivability of missions and career fields. Some of those changes came in the form of career-field mergers, especially within the career enlisted aviator specialties.

Last November, Airmen from the Air Force Specialty Code 1A4X1, airborne operations, were absorbed under the AFSC 1A3X1, airborne mission systems. Airmen in the airborne mission systems are now the eyes and ears on aircraft such as the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, the E-3 Sentry (AWACS), the E-4B, and distinguished visitor airlift.

Eighty-four AFSC 1A4X1, AC-130 gunship sensors, were absorbed under the AFSC 1A9X1, special missions aviation, career field to consolidate the special operations forces mission set.

“The merger has increased available assignments and positions for these aviators,” said Senior Master Sgt. Annika L’Ecuyer, the Headquarters Air Force assistant CEA career field manager. “It allows more flexibility in the career field and broadens the Airmen’s skill set.”

These Airmen are now responsible not only for visual awareness and control of the battlespace, but also for the planning and communications required for full-scale, multinational operations, all from more than 35,000 feet in the air.

Like all changes, this career-field combination has its own set of challenges and growing pains.

“Mergers are hard and time-consuming,” said Chief Master Sgt. Al Davis, the Headquarters Air Force CEA career field manager. “Everyone needs to be in lockstep, and that all starts at the CEA Center of Excellence.”

The center stood up in 2006, and provides the foundational training for all enlisted aircrew members before they continue training in their unique specialties. The center saves the Air Force between $1.6 and $1.8 million a year in travel costs.

“We got rid of archaic training while coupling two (AFSCs) with similar specialties,” said Senior Master Sgt. Marc Gibson, the 344th Training Squadron Center of Excellence Operations superintendent.

The dedicated instructors ensure every enlisted aviator has all the tools and knowledge needed to make the next step in their flying careers, whether they’re straight from Air Force Basic Military Training, or retraining into a different career field.

“By implementing the 1A4 full-motion video capability into the curriculum, we’re able to combine maintaining the (airborne) systems with operating those systems,” Gibson explained. “The results are aviators who have more robust capabilities on the operator side.”

The updates to the training will ensure AFSC 1A3X1 Airmen are able to provide eyes and ears on the battlespace, and give the Air Force all the knowledge needed to make a kinetic decision on any potential or actual threat.

For more information on the AFSC 1A3X1 career field, send a message to usaf.pentagon.af-a3.mbx.cea-recruiting@mail.mil.

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