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AFSOC priorities: Providing combat ready forces

  • Published
  • By Capt. Victoria Porto
  • Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles focusing on each of the four AFSOC priorities.

“Providing combat ready forces is our raison d’etre,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Hicks, Air Force Special Operations Command director of operations. “It’s what we do, and the other three priorities directly support it.”

Discussing the command’s priorities—provide combat ready forces, create an environment for Airmen and families to thrive, transform training to optimize human performance, and modernize and sustain the force—Hicks also said the first priority was the most mature.

“We’ve been in sustained combat operations for almost a decade and a half now, and we’re pretty good at doing this,” he said. “We are making minor improvements on an already well-oiled machine.”

That machine includes all Air Commandos, frontline or in-garrison.

“Your proximity to the front lines does not define your contributions nor relevance to the fight,” commented Lt. Gen. Brad Heithold, AFSOC commander.

Specifically, the command is working to define and realize Air Force Special Operations Forces Generation, AFSOC’s take on a U.S. Special Operations Command program to establish a sustainable, rotatable plan to manage deployment requirements for people and equipment.

Before, AFSOC forces were sent forward on a “demand-based” system, responding to numerous requests for support for operations downrange, said Lt. Col. Todd Kratzke, AFSOC Operations Center commander.

“It was a ‘can we do one more’ mentality in trying to fulfill the tasking requirements,” he said. “We’re shifting our mindset to be more supply-based, looking first at how many aircraft and people we need to keep at home to train and keep our forces proficient, while optimizing our sustainable deployed capacity.”

By first ensuring sufficient institutional training at home, Kratzke said AFSOFORGEN will keep a higher supply of proficient crews that are ready to deploy.

“Protecting our ability to train and preparing our people for the hard missions allows us to maximize the availability of Air Commandos to deploy,” he said.

Another consideration is maintaining stability and predictability of deployments for Airmen and their families. Kratzke said the program’s focus on a sustainable rotation of forces will also help manage the ratio for Airmen being deployed and at home, with the goal of reaching a 1:2 dwell ratio.

Additionally, the command is working to bolster readiness through intelligence efforts to enhance Airmen’s understanding of the operational environment, and maintenance efforts to optimize aircraft availability for training and operational sorties.

“This priority, providing combat ready forces, refocuses the command on human capital,” Hicks said. “We need to make sure the people who operate the exquisite weapons systems we’re buying are equally exquisite, or more so, because they are the key.”