One joint base, two Air Force wings, 240 Airmen: how relationships helped form an AEW to validate ACE in the Pacific

  • Published
  • By Maj. Clay Lancaster
  • 3rd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam – In December 2021, the Air Force Chief of Staff signed Agile Combat Employment doctrine, laying the groundwork for service members to put into action. The intent was to proactively codify how Airmen must increase survivability while generating combat power in an austere, highly contested, and degraded environment.

Since 2021, commanders have been challenged to take tangible steps - action - towards validating the ACE operational framework. To give a realistic sense of the ACE concept, deploying forces away from their home station was necessary.

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska is in a unique position to take ACE doctrine and put it to the test. JBER’s missions include air superiority, rapid global mobility, command and control, and global strike capabilities in one location - four of the five Air Force core missions. The glue to organize and employ, then galvanize relationships is the AEW and A-Staff where it all comes together.

“I wanted to challenge our team to train like we will fight. The AEW and A-Staff construct works because of relationships and partnerships forged in garrison at JBER,” said Col. Kevin “Jinx” Jamieson, the 3rd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “We needed to orient ourselves towards a common approach of building a capability during the planning phase, then deploying and employing those capabilities in an operationally relevant environment. We’ve learned so much by getting out of our comfort zones and challenging this team to take action, away from our home station.”

Agile Reaper was structured as a classic AEW, multiple wings and core missions coming together, with a staff of multi-disciplinary directorates that better aligned with the way higher headquarters are constructed. This helped orient the A-Staff towards a common approach of build-deploy-employ-redeploy - a common language from the tactical to the strategic levels of command. During the build phases, it was relationships and partnerships that made the difference.

“Both the Air Base Wing and 3rd Wing are uniquely positioned to come together as partners to build out an AEW here in the Indo-Pacific theater,” said Col. Dave Wilson, 673rd Air Base Wing commander and JBER’s installation commander. “Where else can a personnel specialist on her first [temporary duty] or intelligence Airman with less than a year in the service be sitting alongside a mobility pilot with 20 years of service, both partnering to project combat power for combatant commanders. The forming of an A-staff and relationships made that possible where it otherwise wouldn’t have been achievable back here at JBER. I’m thrilled to continue our work with the 3rd AEW in future iterations of Agile Reaper.”

Agile Reaper is scheduled to wrap up this week at Andersen Air Force Base and Tinian International Airport.

The AEW will transition to in-garrison status and take steps to better understand the challenges they faced over the last two weeks. The invaluable lessons learned will be codified into an ACE Playbook at JBER so future iterations can build on the foundations laid.