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The purpose of this handbook is to discuss AEF leadership from a group commander's perspective with emphasis on leading an AEF rotation. The intent is to inform, educate, and start a dialogue whereby leaders can share their experiences and knowledge with others. This handbook is based on experience gained from commanding the 379th Expeditionary Mission Support Group (EMSG) at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. The unit's task was to support the Global War on Terrorism by overseeing the base operations support mission for approximately 6,000 members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, the Combined Air Operations Center, and a host of tenant units.
This handbook is based on experience gained from commanding the 379th Expeditionary Mission Support Group (EMSG) at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. The concepts, initiatives and programs presented in this handbook center around the ideas of leading people and managing base operations within an EMSG; however, many of these ideas are transferable for application, either directly or indirectly, to other deployed wings, groups, or squadrons.
To set the stage, the 379 EMSG's task was to support the Global War on Terrorism by overseeing the base operations support mission for approximately 6,000 members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, the Combined Air Operations Center, and a host of other tenant units. The base was well established, even though it was transitioning from tents to semi-permanent trailers. The vast majority of personnel assigned to the base lived in Coalition Compound, a housing area on the installation but separated from the main base. The compound consisted of 136 dorm trailers, with most of the flights belonging to the 379th Expeditionary Services Squadron. The work facilities were mostly trailers with a few organizations still working out of tents.
The 379th EMSG was comprised of six squadrons and a personnel support for contingency operations (PERSCO) team. The group was made up of approximately 1,400 rotational military members. Additionally, the group had 60 permanent-party military members comprising the leadership team and a handful of Department of Defense (DoD) civilians and contractors.
The primary mission of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing was to fill air tasking orders and other support requirements levied by the Joint Forces Air Component Commander in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. The 379th EMSG's task was to provide base operating support for the wing and other tenant units assigned to the installation. Over the course of the following year, we would work our way through three full air expeditionary force (AEF) rotations.
This handbook should be used as a reference only--Department of Defense and Air Force directives will always take precedence.
The views expressed in this document are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force, Department of Defense, or the US Government.
Chapter 1--The AEF Rotation
Establishing a Timeline
Looking at a rotation from the perspective of time helps to frame the many tasks associated with a 120-day rotation. This perspective adds order and structure to the many actions that need to be accomplished to effectively lead and manage an AEF rotation.
Figure 1 provides a timeline used by EMSG to sequence events through a rotational cycle. In order to provide a structured flow of events, in chronological order, the timeline groups the events into three periods: pre-rotation, rotation, and post-rotation.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
An AEF rotation generally has a defined start and end date set by the AEF Center. Official pre-rotation preparations and personnel arrival begin approximately 30 days prior to the official start date of the rotation. The AEF rotation ends 120 days after the official start date.
The 120-day rotational timeline is typically not followed by aviation organizations, such as expeditionary mission support groups and expeditionary medical groups. Most personnel assigned to these groups rotate in accordance with the AEF cycle, except for the personnel assigned to security forces and vehicle operations who rotate on a 179-day cycle because of increased deployment requirements and limited manpower.
Personnel assigned to expeditionary operations groups and the expeditionary maintenance groups generally rotate with movement of aircraft. Units assigned to these groups rotate on a nonstandard cycle linked more closely to the rotation of aircraft rather than a standard AEF cycle. These groups are also subject to seemingly continuous movement of personnel because of the types of aircraft flown and unit of assignment. For example, some reserve component flying units arrived every 40 days, while others would send the aircraft for a full 120-day rotation, but rotate the people every 30 days. Other units would rotate aircraft and personnel on a monthly basis.
Typically, 30 days prior to the official rotation start date, several activities need to be considered and accomplished; for example, in-processing and lodging accommodations for inbound personnel, as well as accommodations for outbound personnel. It is not uncommon for personnel to arrive as early as 30 days prior to the rotation and continue arriving as late as 2 weeks into the AEF cycle.
Upon arrival, personnel must in-process into the country and onto the base. In most cases, a defense cooperative agreement between the United States and the host nation defines entrance criteria. Usually, a military member or government official enters the country and immigrates with a valid identification card and a set of orders. All personnel, however, must abide by the host nation's customs requirements as described in the Department of State's Foreign Clearance Guide. The most common customs problems at AL Udeid involved attempts to enter the country with alcohol, pornography, or illegal or unauthorized weapons.
Next, all personnel are required to in-process onto the base. At Al Udeid, this was done by the base PERSCO team in order to account for every person in the United States Air Force Central Command (USCENTAF) area of responsibility. During this time, PERSCO would schedule newly arrived personnel for Right Start, a series of briefings that familiarized the individual with the base and with the installation commander's policies.
Lodging accommodations require upfront planning before new personnel arrive and during the nearly 6 weeks of transitional movement of inbound and outbound personnel. Because both incoming and outgoing personnel will be on station at the same time, units have to work closely with the expeditionary services squadron to ensure sufficient lodging is available. First sergeants and the expeditionary services squadron's transient lodging manager are the primary players in orchestrating lodging accommodations. Due to limited space in transient lodging during the rotation period, units at the deployed location have to maximize use of existing bed spaces within their assigned dorms before requesting use of transient lodging. During rotation time at Al Udeid, transient personnel swelled to above 1400 people per night.
Personnel from the outgoing rotation will generally start departing the base 1 week after personnel from the new rotation arrive. During this transition period, outgoing personnel must do a turnover with their replacement, such as clear out of their dorm and out-process from various base activities, their unit, and PERSCO. They must also satisfy the host nation's exit criteria and customs requirements.
Personnel in transient status must also be considered during this period. In the case of Al Udeid, the base served as a hub for movement of personnel throughout the theater of operation. These individuals were not required to formally enter and exit the country; however, they were required to satisfy customs clearance. The base had to work closely with the expeditionary logistics readiness squadron, who had responsibilities for transient personnel movement, to ensure enough lodging was available through the services squadron to meet the increased demand from transient movers.
Finally, during this pre-rotational period, time is spent planning to spin-up the next rotation for a potential major accident or for a threat response. Plans are developed and put in place to educate all players involved in readiness. Additional details on readiness exercises can be found in Chapter 2, Directing Readiness Exercises.
During the rotation period, many activities should occur to help better manage the rotation. Early in the rotation, the unit should conduct a series of readiness exercises to ensure the emergency response teams are fully trained and familiar with base operating procedures. Additionally, commander's calls should be held to communicate standards of performance and expectations. In the beginning of the rotation, manpower reviews should also be accomplished to identify unfilled, mismatched, or training discrepancies and report them to the AEF Center, so the center can identify fixes or work-arounds. During the middle of the rotation period, dorm validations should be accomplished to ensure dorm room management is controlled and adjusted to reflect changes in the mission that, in turn, drive changes in numbers of personnel needing lodging accommodations. Throughout the rotation, commanders may want to emphasize continuity and consistency between rotations so an effective hand-over can occur. Finally, toward the end of the rotation, commanders need to focus their attention on ensuring quality letters of evaluation (LOEs) are produced for deployed personnel, and where applicable, generate necessary decorations to recognize superior performers.
Post-rotation activities center on capturing lessons learned and incorporating those lessons into actions to be resolved for the next rotation. Though adjustments are made throughout the rotation, a mechanism is needed to formally capture lessons and improvement initiatives so they can be incorporated into policy, guidance, or other institutionalized processes. Each of these areas will be discussed in greater length throughout this handbook.
Chapter 2--Directing Readiness Exercises
Readiness exercises are an important mission area requiring great deal of attention at the beginning of each rotation. he focus is to rapidly spin-up and qualify personnel for major accident responses such as an aircraft incident, security breech, or natural disaster. In the absence of a wing plans and programs (XP) …