Kenney Headquarters maximizes support to joint warfighters

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- Lt Col Curt Walker, Kenney Headquarters (13th Air Force) Pacific Air Operations Center, Combat Operations Division, and Wing Commander Sumana Chulamokha, Group Captain Suwit Wattanaroek (standing), and Group Captain Noi Parkperm from the Royal Thai Air Force coordinate air operations in KHQ's PAOC during the 25th annual Cobra Gold exercise hosted by Thailand. The exercise demonstrated the planning, execution and reach back capabilities KHQ can provide to the Combined Forces Air Component Commander during a joint and/or combined contingency. (Courtesy photo)

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- Lt Col Curt Walker, Kenney Headquarters (13th Air Force) Pacific Air Operations Center, Combat Operations Division, and Wing Commander Sumana Chulamokha, Group Captain Suwit Wattanaroek (standing), and Group Captain Noi Parkperm from the Royal Thai Air Force coordinate air operations in KHQ's PAOC during the 25th annual Cobra Gold exercise hosted by Thailand. The exercise demonstrated the planning, execution and reach back capabilities KHQ can provide to the Combined Forces Air Component Commander during a joint and/or combined contingency. (Courtesy photo)

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- The Gen. George C. Kenney Headquarters (KHQ) (13th Air Force) is approaching the one-year mark since being established by Gen. Paul V. Hester, Pacific Air Forces commander, June 1, 2005.

KHQ is designed as a fully-functional operational headquarters that commands, controls, delivers and assesses air, space and information operations for the joint force throughout the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Korea. Consisting of three major elements—the Pacific Air Operations Center, the Pacific Air Force Forces staff, and a support group—the KHQ is responsible for planning and execution of all air operations ranging from humanitarian assistance to full-scale combat for the commanders of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) and U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM).

Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula is the KHQ commander. Day to day, General Deptula commands United States Air Force forces like the fighter and bomber deployments that are part of the PACOM theater security plan, USAF forces participating in international exercises, as well as controls USAF and other service air forces assigned to KHQ accomplishing missions such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). During contingencies and exercises, he has taken on the additional roles of being a joint forces air component commander and commanding a joint task force. General Deptula sums it up by saying; “In a nutshell our mission is to project peace, power, and presence.”

“The Kenney Headquarters fills a previous void at the operational level of war and for humanitarian operations,” said General Deptula. “While major commands such as PACAF focus on their mission to organize, train, and equip, the Air Force’s warfighting headquarters organizations provide combatant commanders with a ready to act command and control capability 24/7/365. Never again will we commence a no-notice contingency from a standing start.”

The concept to shift several numbered air forces to “warfighting” headquarters was initially introduced in the summer of 2002 by former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. (ret.) John P. Jumper in response to the operational challenges of the 21st century and the Global War on Terror. KHQ linage is from 13th Air Force, but was created with the majority of personnel coming from the PACAF staff, with some from 5th Air Force, and 11th Air Force. It is currently a provisional unit, and has been fully engaged in command of operations, plans, exercises, and international engagement since its establishment a year ago.

During Operation Unified Assistance, the Asian Tsunami relief effort that began December 2004, the KHQ’s current core personnel first got to test the concept.

“Unified Assistance really brought home the importance of having one commander to command and control air operations in a contingency situation,” said Col. Mark Tapper, KHQ chief of staff who was the commander of the 502nd Air Operations Group during the relief effort. “By capitalizing on unity of effort and command we were able to quickly and effectively respond and provide relief to people who needed it immediately. That kind of operation is the heart of Kenney Headquarters – it’s about a unified effort that combines our joint and allied air forces to accomplish the combatant commander’s objectives.”

Less than four months after Unified Assistance ended, General Hester implemented the former Air Force chief of staff’s vision in the Pacific. The goal is that nine such organizations will be created to conduct air operations for each of the geographical and functional combatant commanders that exist worldwide.

Since its beginning, KHQ has responded to several real-world contingencies in the Pacific theater.

Its successes include: humanitarian support to the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the island of Comoros, the Philippines and to the state of Hawaii; theater planning and coordination for Global Hawk operations, and planning a response in the event of an Avian Influenza Pandemic crisis. The new unit also provided the Joint Forces Air Component Commander and air operations center for six major international exercises, operational control over theater security presence fighter aircraft and continuous bomber presence deployments.

General Deptula is also the joint task force commander for Operation Deep Freeze, support for National Science Foundation operations in Antarctica, and he is the area air defense commander for air and missile defense of the PACOM area of responsibility outside of Korea. In addition, one of the primary roles of the KHQ is to provide ready plans to react, execute, and succeed in over 15 potential contingency situations that span the security spectrum.

Designed for flexibility, the KHQ staff can assemble a team from local Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve assets or pull from allocated resources from other bases and/or major commands. KHQ also incorporates players from other U.S. military services and coalition forces into their operations as applicable for the assigned mission.

To remain effective, KHQ maintains a ready operational staff 24/7/365, eliminating reaction and spin up time to respond to unannounced crises.

The operational headquarters is armed with an AN/USQ-163 FALCONER weapon system - a fully capable Air Operations Center - which provides the Joint Forces Air Component Commander the ability to plan and execute theater-wide air and space operations. With the Pacific AOC, KHQ is able to achieve a level of cooperation, coordination and overall command and control never before experienced in a major command with the largest area of responsibility in the world.

As our military gets leaner, the determinant of who will be selected as the functional air component commander will be weighed more on which service component has optimal command and control capabilities rather than the number of forces assigned. As an example, in June U.S. Air Force fighters, bombers and support aircraft along with three U.S. Navy carrier strike groups, a U.S. Marine Air Wing and the U.S. Coast Guard will participate in Valiant Shield 2006, an exercise designed to enhance joint combat skills and interoperability. General Deptula will be the joint forces air component commander for Admiral Gary Roughead—the Joint Task Force commander—and Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines will work together in the Pacific Air Operations Center at Hickam to command and control all air assets in and around the skies of Guam.

Exercises not only give KHQ an opportunity to practice joint force plans and operations with the Air Force’s sister services, but they also lead to building valuable inroads for multinational command, control and coordination efforts. KHQ interacts with various nations and countries throughout the region, and the headquarters is able to demonstrate the Air Force’s new capabilities while enhancing U.S. strategic relationships.

During the 25th annual Cobra Gold 06 exercise, hosted by the Kingdom of Thailand May 15 - 26, the Thais and Singaporeans are seeing KHQ’s planning, execution and reach back capabilities for the first time. Air Vice Marshall Srichown Chanruang, a Thai 2-star general, is serving as the exercise’s forward deployed Combined Forces Air Component Commander (CFACC) and Brig. Gen. Greg Ihde, KHQ vice commander, is serving as the exercise’s deputy CFACC.

The Kenney Headquarters creation is one piece of the ongoing Air Force transformation that aims to optimize joint warfighting.

According to the Secretary of the Air Force, a leaner Air Force with an expeditionary force structure will be built around warfighting component headquarters and supported by streamlined management organizations.

“We will fund transformation through organizational efficiencies, process efficiencies, and reduction of legacy systems and manpower while sustaining GWOT and ongoing operations in support of the Joint Fight,” said the Honorable Michael W. Wynne, SECAF.

The Kenney Headquarters is one of the first examples of how consolidation and centralization of base operating support and policy functions will provide reach-back support and guidance in a more efficient manner.

In short, the Gen. George C. Kenney Headquarters (13th Air Force) provides a glimpse into the CSAF’s vision of the U.S. Air Force of the future.

“Building on a proud warfighting heritage and a legacy of service, we are transforming into a more compact, lethal 21st Century Air Force, built for agility, speed, and precision,” said Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Chief of Staff of the Air Force.