Leading edge of change hails from Hickam

  • Published
  • By Lt. Gen. Chip Utterback
  • Thirteenth Air Force Commander
"The times, they are a changing," and we are right in the middle of that change at Hickam. The stand up of 13th Air Force as a Component Numbered Air Force in October 2006 brought a dramatic new capability to the Pacific and world stage. We are a nation at war and the realities of the 21st century dynamics demand that our Air Force is more agile, mobile, and lethal in the application of airpower. Thirteenth Air Force is an essential piece of that equation and all of you are a critical part of this transformation and its success. 

Simply put, the mission of 13th Air Force is to provide the Combatant Commander, at the operational level of war; a full time trained and manned Air Operations Center and an AFFOR warfighting staff. What makes it unique is the Component Numbered Air Force commander and the warfighting headquarters is joint focused and prepared to act as a Joint Forces Air Component Commander while posturing to become the core of a Joint Task Force. Thirteenth AF retains much of the responsibilities of a traditional numbered air force but our razor sharp, daily focus is operational planning, the command and control of airpower, and the execution and assessment of combat operations and other contingencies. 

While the official stand up was last October, we actually have been operating under this construct since June 2005, when a provisional warfighting headquarters, called Kenney Headquarters, was born. At that time we began implementing former CSAF Gen Jumper's vision to meet the operational challenges of the 21st Century by providing full spectrum, network-enabled command and control of air, space, and information operations in the Pacific theater. 

The tragic Asian Tsunami provided an impetus for us to establish 24/7 operations. We spent 2005 reorganizing and refining our processes and upgrading our infrastructure.  By early 2006, we were operating as the theater JFACC and we have responded to numerous contingencies throughout the year such as the Philippine mudslides, Indonesian earthquakes, and the Wake Island evacuation. At the other end of the spectrum, 13th Air Force has employed the awesome effects that airpower brings to the battle space in over 25 annual exercises which range from a small scale contingency to simulated major theater war. The 13th Air Force commander is also responsible for the Air Defense of Hawaii and Guam and serves as the Joint Task Force commander for Support forces in the Antarctica. As the Space Control authority in the Pacific, 13th Air Force brings space capabilities to the theater. Command and control of joint airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations in the theater is also in our kit bag. 

From the transformation process came a new organizational structure: 13th AF is now composed of the 36th Wing at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam; the 15th Airlift Wing at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii; and Kenney Headquarters (KHQ). The 36th Wing plays a key expeditionary role in our region, providing a lethal warfighting platform for the employment, deployment, reception, and throughput for air and space forces in our region. The 15th Airlift Wing brings power and reach to the table by providing world-class en route support and by maintaining operational ready forces such as the C-17 Globemaster. 

The heart of 13th AF's warfighting capability is Kenney Headquarters. KHQ combines the tremendous power of the 613th Air Operations Center, our weapons system; the AFFOR staff, providing the "beans and bullets" portion of the fight; and 13th AF Detachment 1 located at Yokota Air Force Base in Japan. Combined together 13th AF warriors are tremendous force enhancers responsible for the planning, command and control, delivery, and assessment of air, space, and information operations within the Pacific Command theater. 

KHQ is operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, ready to respond to the Combatant Commander's airpower requirements with a joint-coalition focus. That razor sharp focus enables 13th AF to command and control the full spectrum of air, space, and information operations in the Pacific and support multiple theater joint task forces. 

We live in exciting times and you are all a part of this transformation to the warfighting HQ. We have already proven that this concept works and I'm confident that when called upon again, in peace or in conflict, we will bring air, space and information power to bear in defense of our nation.