By AMC Commander Gen Maryanne Miller
Thank you for the sacrifices you make every day to serve this great nation. You and your families have always been there for America, and it is an honor and privilege to serve with you!
When I accepted the guidon in September 2018, the nation’s defense climate was changing. Our top defense officials took a hard look at the world and reevaluated which actors posed the greatest threat to Americans and our interests. With the first National Defense Strategy (NDS) in 10 years, they put a target on revisionist powers who seek to reshape the world by authoritarian models, and they set American defense efforts on a path to compete, deter, and when necessary, win. As our national command authority adjusted their focus, so too, Air Mobility Command (AMC) adapted to the new face of the security environment. In concert with this effort, I released a new Vision for Mobility Airmen the same autumn; a Vision you have heard me advocate ever since.
Mobility Airmen know how to pivot effort in the right direction. You have plotted this new course, pushed up the throttles, and not looked back. Nearly two years later, I am proud to say we have made significant progress. Here are some highlights of your progress in the context of our six priorities.
FULL SPECTRUM READINESS
What it is. The lethality required by the NDS is a function of the four components of Full Spectrum Readiness. These components are the right amount of Airmen with effective leadership, armed with the right skills, and possessing situational awareness of their operating environment.
What it looks like. At the unit level it looks like a warfighting mentality intrinsic to every Airman and is spread across the Total Force. It looks like decision dominance enabled by constant awareness of the threat and streamlined command-and-control (C2) across each core mission. It also will increasingly look like operating with mission-type orders as we practice decentralized decision-making informed by commander’s intent.
Progress. Together we have examined the tiles of this mosaic to be sure each piece contributes to an accurate overall picture. Under the Readiness Driven Allocation Process, we have pushed authority down to the wings, providing ownership at the right level to custom-fit training to mission requirements. During the headquarters transformation our team of experts overhauled the command’s mission execution direction. Consequently, we now have Annual Training Guidance, an Air Operations Plan, and Special Instructions accurately driving our operations cycle in alignment with the NDS.
As our crews step to a mission, they are shifting to an execution mindset based on their commander’s intent, so when our C2 nodes are denied they are able to continue the operation. The 618th Air Operations Center (AOC) is busy strengthening network defense capabilities and has exercised communications denial scenarios to test vulnerabilities and build experience operating in degraded conditions.
SUSTAINING AN EFFECTIVE NUCLEAR RESPONSE
What it is. America’s most visible leg of the nuclear triad is kept aloft by Mobility Airmen. Through airlift and air refueling, we deliver strategic capabilities that underpin the credibility of our nuclear deterrent.
What it looks like. This response looks like our fleet of refueling tankers extending our global reach so that we can hold any target at risk, at the time and place of our choosing. It looks like airlifting nuclear weapons and support materials to guarantee an effective supply chain. It also looks like 21st century C2 systems to ensure immediate dispersal of timely decisions and critical information.
Progress. As AMC’s C2 network evolves, our nuclear C2 capability is receiving communications upgrades to keep pace with the latest technology. As we conduct Initial Operational Test and Evaluation for the KC-46, we have several parallel efforts to develop the methodology and supply the equipment to guarantee this tanker is effective in the nuclear mission.
MOBILITY OPERATIONS IN CONTESTED ENVIRONMENTS
What it is. The threats of tomorrow present an increasingly contested environment for the entire Joint Force. Mobility Airmen will face access challenges in all domains—air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace—and must be accustomed to operating in and through those domains despite these obstacles.
What it looks like. Conducting effective operations in Contested, Degraded, and Operationally-limited environments requires integrating capabilities and leveraging agility. For AMC, this looks like integrating into the operational strategies of Joint All-Domain Command-and-Control (JADC2) and Agile Combat Employment. It looks like advanced sensors and communications systems to gain battlespace awareness and to proliferate that awareness across a network of joint and allied partners. It also looks like self-protection and aircraft survivability.
Progress. Cyber Mission Defense Teams have emerged as a nascent cyber defense capability as we develop stronger defenses against peer and near-peer adversaries. AMC’s JADC2 campaign plan is a coordinated, intentional effort to rejoin the rest of the Air Force with redundant, secure beyond-line-of-sight communications and integration with the Advanced Battle Management System. Our platforms will not only perform the primary missions of airlift, air refueling, and aeromedical evacuation, but they will be connected sensors in a constellation of the JADC2 network.
Rounding out this line of effort is the Next Generation AOC. The fiscal year 2020 President’s Budget fully funds a new facility that not only provides state-of-the-art C2, but is intentionally designed to integrate operational planners, intelligence, and AOC personnel to increase information sharing and gain the synergies associated with real-time collaboration.
DEVELOP THE FORCE
What it is. While technology changes the face of warfare, its nature remains the same. The clash of wills cannot be separated from its human dimension. The requirements for moral strength and physical stamina demand that we spare no expense as we cultivate a lethal fighting force by developing Airmen.
What it looks like. This development looks like arming Airmen with the experiences and knowledge that will cultivate the strength and stamina required for this type of conflict. This includes education and training, targeted development programs, and intentionally managing assignment selection and timing.
Progress. Through efforts like the Mobility Air Force Mentoring Facebook page, our personnel management team has brought clarity to the assignment process for thousands of Airmen. Intentional placement for squadron leadership and the expansion of career-broadening programs help us match the right Airmen to the right place at the right time.
In the fall of 2019, national legislation helped us realize several goals we have advocated for on behalf of our Airmen and their families. We have improved support to military families through doubled reimbursement for state licensure expenses for spouses, an establishment of a Tenant Bill of Rights for privatized military housing, flying waivers for pregnant aviators, and the Defense Department’s comprehensive assessment of childcare needs. Strong families yield mission-focused Airmen.
MODERNIZATION AND RECAPITALIZATION EFFORTS
What it is. In the simplest terms, modernization is getting the right stuff, and recapitalization is keeping the right stuff. To discern what the “right stuff” is, we consider the threats, risks, and costs to custom-fit our capabilities to the needs of our NDS and the Joint Force.
What it looks like. Getting and keeping the right stuff looks like accelerating the acquisition process for the capabilities we need and the tools required to keep those capabilities competitive. This approach involves off-the-shelf solutions as well as rapid acquisition authorities. It also looks like adapting employment methods by leveraging best practices and lessons learned so that our capabilities have the sharpest edge for our modern environment.
Progress. I mentioned previously that our platforms would need to do more than just perform their core missions. The KC-46 is more than just a refueling tanker. It comes complete with the tools needed for operating in future environments, such as satellite communications, tactical datalinks, and threat warning equipment.
Our command is leading the Air Force with a capability gleaned from commercial partnerships known as Conditions Based Maintenance-Plus (CBM+). Combining predictive data analytics with advanced sensing equipment, CBM+ yields higher mission-capable rates as we gain the ability to proactively schedule maintenance repairs on fatiguing parts before they fail, not after.
INNOVATION TOWARD A RAPID AND RESILIENT RESPONSE
What it is. In simplest terms, innovation is taking a good idea and refining it by experimentation to put it to use, resulting in improved capability. This definition is intentionally broad to encourage a variety of creative ideas to germinate. Not all ideas survive the experimentation process; however, cultivating ideas—even those that are not implemented—is essential in stimulating more ideas and expanding our thinking. All Airmen who share their ideas and innovative concepts contribute to increased mission capability.
What it looks like. Supportive environments are a critical component for ideas to thrive. As Mobility Airmen you should feel the freedom to voice your ideas to your leadership and explore them through established processes. It is incumbent on our commanders to cultivate this environment and remove obstacles to creative thought as Airmen explore ways to enhance mission capability. As always, our striving to innovate must remain mission-focused because it is our path to increased agility and warfighting readiness.
Progress. Our maintenance community has made use of Augmented Reality devices to increase the rate by which Airmen absorb information. Using artificial but highly realistic environments, they build muscle memory in various aircraft systems through task training without the need to keep an aircraft on the ground.
I am immensely proud of the progress we have made in promoting Airmen-led solutions. Each year at our Phoenix Spark Tank, we bring the top ideas from across the command to compete for prizes on the stage at the Airlift/Tanker Association Convention. Of the 10 finalists since the program’s start three years ago, three Airmen have gone on to represent AMC at the Air Force’s Spark Tank.
Celebrating great ideas does not end with the stage however. Sometimes it does not even start with the stage. Regardless of where an idea places in the Spark Tank, AMC is devoted to pursuing all ideas that bring increased mission effectiveness.
Each of these initiatives represents a significant investment of insight, energy, talent, and time. They bring our enterprise up to speed for the current operating environment and lay the footings for us to build a lethal force for the future. The requirements of tomorrow will be different than today’s. We must seize this momentum and move beyond the incremental next in order to make quantum leaps into the future. The grasp of America’s defense will never exceed the reach of our mobility enterprise. Let us commit to advancing our capabilities faster than anyone thought possible, and as we do, we will deliver unrivaled strength for America’s global reach.
Together, we wear the cloth of our nation and stand for a purpose much more significant than ourselves. We believe in and know the power of serving others, and of bearing the weight of human need, no matter the cost. As Airmen, we succeed. As Airmen, we invest our skills, talents, and lives serving this great nation and each other. As Airmen, we lead from the front, kneel beside those in need, share in the work of our teammates, respect their lives, and honor their contributions.
As Airmen, we are never alone. We are America’s Airmen.