Multi-Capable Airmen: Smarter. Faster. Stronger.


MULTI-CAPABLE AIRMEN: Airmen accomplishing tasks outside their core Air Force Specialty. Specifically, these personnel train as a cross-functional team to meet and provide combat support to aviation force elements conducting dispersed and dynamic operations. They are enabled by cross-utilization training and are able to operate independently to accomplish mission objectives within acceptable levels of risk.

AGILE COMBAT EMPLOYMENT: An operational concept that leverages networks of well-established and austere air bases, Multi-Capable Airmen, pre-positioned equipment, and airlifts to rapidly deploy, disperse, and maneuver combat capability throughout a theater.

The U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center (USAF EC) has diverse purposes for individuals who find themselves at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ. But, for many Airmen, it is the last stop on American soil before deploying to a potentially hostile environment, major conflict, or even war. To prepare them for a possible face-off with an adversary, vital skills are taught in courses like Field Craft-Uncertain, Field Craft-Hostile, Field Craft-Contingency Response, and the intense Phoenix Raven program. Taking the training a step further, a new course is quickly gaining momentum for Multi-Capable Airmen (MCA) who support the future fast-paced warfighting concept of Agile Combat Employment (ACE).

Maj Gen Mark Camerer, Commander of the USAF Expeditionary Center, said that he encouraged “Competitive, courageous, and curious action-ori­ented Airmen. Those are the ones who drive change inside the Expeditionary Center or on the frontlines that we need and that’s how we are going to outpace our adversaries.”

In addition, he said that the MCA concept has proven successful with the 621st Contingency Response Wing (CRW) for many years because the Airmen have a robust set of expeditionary skills that enable them to work together in smaller, tight-knit teams. The teams are formed with selected Airmen who have a variety of skills and training in addition to their core Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC). In these specialized groups, they are able to move in quickly, complete a mission, and return to home station faster than a large team and without as much airlifted equipment.

Those Airmen with exceptional expeditionary skills, who are smarter, faster, and stronger than the opposition, are the heart of Agile Combat Employment. At this time, Mobility Airmen have an extensive global reach by serving in 55 different locations in 24 countries and territories. In a time of conflict, while united with joint partners, the matrix equates to a vast reinforced network of warfighting channels. “Agile Combat Employment is the concept to not rely on our main operating bases but to train to the element of unpredictability and flexibility, so our enemy won’t know where we are striking from or recovering to so we can extend our advantage,” Camerer said.

Maj Jeffrey Van Guilder, Chief of Operations Branch, added that “Adversaries have developed their capabilities to inhibit our ability to project power from standard bases such as Al Udeid and Al Dhafra, but by providing our Airmen expeditionary skills across various AFSCs, this enables us to shrink the size of the teams down and make our Airmen more agile. By making them more agile, we can project power from different locations. With different locations, now we are able to complicate the enemy target cycle.”

With highly trained Airmen in strategic or austere locations, Air Mobility Command (AMC) can project power to the joint force through airlift, air refueling, aeromedical evacuation, and global air mobility support. Speed and agility on a global scale is AMC’s greatest strength, and during a highly competitive conflict is a no-fail mission.

In July 2020, due to the need to establish a formal course, a group of 40 met virtually to expand on those known successes from the CRW and developed a training syllabus for MCA in the ACE environment. Highlights of the planned curriculum include setting up entry control points, perimeter defense, and advanced weapons training. With multiple delivery options, one being a USAF Expeditionary Center-taught course, the syllabus sets the standard for training at MAJCOMs and wings. After the syllabus was approved in January 2021, personnel from the Expeditionary Center began speaking with wings about integrating and standardizing the new concept.

Camerer stressed that the MCA concept is not meant to add more duties on an Airman’s shoulders, but is meant to complement existing core skills. He provided an example by saying, “Not every Airman will need MCA training. It is those who will be identified to go forward in the smaller groups in the ACE construct. We do this today with great success in the CRWs so it’s a proven and demonstrated model. We do it to some extent in our AMOWs [Air Mobility Operations Wing] with maintainers. Maybe they were a C-5 [maintainer] but also have the training and capability to work on a C-17, so that those Airmen can work on more than one kind of aircraft. We do that already for the rest of the Air Force and parts of AMC; it’s a new construct, but inside Expeditionary Center, it’s something we have been doing for many years.”

The Airmen of the USAF Expeditionary Center provide our nation with the strategic advantage that is coveted by our senior leaders, respected by our allies, and cannot be matched by our adversaries.

“We do have two hats that we wear— the Air Force hat as well as the AMC hat. For the Air Force hat, we led the charge on MCA. What we are finding is that MCA as a whole across the Air Force is a massive cultural shift and we cannot be the be-all end-all for MCA. It requires us to integrate across the MAJCOMs and into the air staff to create linkages, and codify MCA into Air Force policy and career field training plans to make sure there is oversight. The USAF Expeditionary Center is the launching pad to institutionalize MCA. At some point, there will be a natural handoff to the management structure in the Air Force that currently exists,” VanGuilder said.

As the course evolves and further develops over the next couple of years, there are plans to expand into advanced courses at the USAF Expeditionary Center. In the meantime, major training exercises, like NODAL LIGHTNING, conducted from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, from October 19-24, 2020, focused on strengthening the MCA concept.

“NODAL LIGHTNING is the 521 AMOW’s full spectrum readiness exercise that tests the entirety of the eastern route, across 15 countries and two areas of responsibility, in an integrated peer threat scenario,” said Col Adrienne Williams, 521 AMOW Commander. “The exercise tested our ability to perform our core operations under contested and limited conditions. It also tested the ability to execute the enroute mission set at any permissive operation location, all while sustaining Rapid Global Mobility at our current nodal locations.”

In what is called a “lift-and-shift,” the MCA and ACE training scenario mirrored the relocation of airlift in the event a primary airfield is unusable. “We are training, testing, and shaping how 521 AMOW Airmen can fill each other’s roles, so we can send a package of Airmen to different runways and have a team set to support incoming aircraft. It allows us a platform to further hone and refine how we support Rapid Global Mobility,” said Lt Col Matthew Kelley, 521 AMOW Inspector General.

In spring 2021, MOBILITY GUARDIAN, another major AMC exercise, will incorporate learning objectives for MCA and ACE. The much-anticipated event will set the stage for how AMC trains for a future fight.

The Airmen of the USAF Expeditionary Center provide our nation with the strategic advantage that is coveted by our senior leaders, respected by our allies, and cannot be matched by our adversaries. Through innovation and modernization, AMC will move at the speed of war to fly, fight, and win any battle.