13th Air Force one year later … a look back

  • Published
  • By Lt. Gen. Loyd S. "Chip" Utterback
  • 13th Air Force commander
One year ago Oct. 6, 13th Air Force stood up as a component-numbered air force, and what an exciting year it's been. Also the same day, the 15th Airlift Wing was aligned under 13th AF, thus joining the "Jungle Air Force" family, which included Headquarters, 13th AF and the 36th Wing at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Together, we've made tremendous strides operationalizing the C-NAF concept in the Pacific in a relatively short period of time. 

What makes the "new" 13th AF different? The full-time, joint-focused C-NAF dedicated to operational level planning, command, control and execution of air, space, and information operations across the full spectrum of military operations makes 13th AF different from the traditional NAF and distinct from Pacific Air Forces' organize, train and equip role. The command and control capability the C-NAF brings to the fight is critical to integrate airpower capabilities for Pacific Command to overcome the tyranny of distance in the Pacific. 

Thirteenth AF's area of responsibility spans half of the world's surface and is characterized by rapid growth, global powers, regional powers, struggling democracies, terrorism, natural disasters and the lack of a formal alliance in the region. While the 13th AF area of responsibility does not include the Korea theater of operations, we work closely with 7th AF to optimally employ airpower in that region. 

C2 capability is the U.S. military's asymmetric advantage--and 13th AF, with the 613th Air and Space Operations Center, is all about C2. By standing up a single organization focused on airpower, from strategy to task, we provide a single operational Airman's voice to the combatant commander. The "Kenney Headquarters," which is the collective Air Force forces, air and space operations center, and support group staffs, creates an incredible synergy. 

Under the C-NAF, some specialized theater operations are aligned under the control of a single organization. For example, 13th AF is the standing joint force air component command for all day-to-day joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations and has homeland defense responsibility in the air domain for Hawaii and Guam. Personnel recovery missions and theater patient movements throughout the Pacific theater are coordinated by 13th AF. One of our more unique missions, is to lead military support to the National Science Foundation and U.S. Antarctic Program as Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica, Operation Deep Freeze -- the only AF-led standing JTF in theater. 

The continuous bomber presence and theater security package operations are under the C2 of 13th AF. By keeping six to nine bombers at Andersen AFB, Guam, on a rotational basis and deploying fighters to various locations throughout the region, we deter or dissuade any potential aggressor who may think our commitments to other theaters have created vulnerabilities in our defense capability. With the exception of mobility assets, air assets that deploy into theater are under the operational control of 13th AF. 

One of my priorities has been theater ballistic missile defense and integrated air missile defense, and 13th AF has made great strides in this arena, enhancing our capability to defend our homeland and allies. To this end, we've also worked closely with the Japan Air Self Defense Force to create IAMD for Japan through our detachment in Japan, Det. 1, 13th AF. Det. 1 was activated Jan. 5, 2007, and serves as "13th AF forward," working closely with 613th AOC personnel and 5th AF staff who coordinate with their JASDF counterparts on issues of mutual concern. This investment has resulted in unprecedented exchange between the U.S. and Japanese air forces. 

Operational-level, full-spectrum air operations is 13th AF's focus, and we exercise our capability as the air component for JTF exercises and executive agent for numerous bilateral and multinational exercises. In fact, we support more than 30 exercises a year, ranging from small command and control exercises to large-scale, live-flying exercises like Valiant Shield. This year, 13th AF was the overall lead agency for Valiant Shield 2007, which allowed us to test, evaluate, and further refine interoperability of land- and sea-based forces to effectively employ joint airpower under a JTF construct. 

We continue to strengthen partnerships with nations throughout the region through exercises such as Talisman Saber with Australia, Keen Edge with Japan, and Commando Sling with Singapore. Last month, we hosted 43 delegates from 17 nations at the PACRIM Airpower Symposium as a venue to discuss common concerns from an aviator's perspective. For the first time, this year's PACRIM included a noncommissioned officer development program. Chief Master Sgt. Todd Salzman, 13th AF Command Chief, and I have challenged ourselves to assist other Pacific nation's air forces develop a professional NCO corps, enhance their understanding of the role of the NCO corps, and facilitate exchanges, courses, and other venues for NCO development. 

There's always a potential for a natural disaster in this area of the world, so we maintain focus on exercising and planning humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. In July, we demonstrated the capability to execute significant humanitarian assistance and capacity building events rapidly, across vast distances, relatively inexpensively, and with a small footprint. Using one C-17, a team of 50 medical and civil engineer personnel deployed to Kiribati, Vanuatu, and Nauru. In the span of 96 hours, team members provided care to 4,318 medical and dental patients, trained 1,011 residents, and worked civil engineer projects at three clinics. This operation is testimony to the flexible, agile, and timely response capability that airpower brings to the theater. 

We've come a long way implementing the C-NAF concept that was envisioned in the Air Force Chief of Staff's 2005 Air Force Forces Command and Control Enabling Concept. I have had the honor of leading a team of professionals who have moved mountains, and, thanks to their dedication and capability, 13th AF stands ready to effectively and efficiently employ airpower in the Pacific whenever needed.