The warfighter need for streamlined logistics support and expertise in science, technology, research, development and testing launched the creation of Air Force Materiel Command, which marks its 20th anniversary on July 1, 2012.
“AFMC supports the entire spectrum of the Air Force mission, and 20 years offers an opportunity to look back with pride on the command’s accomplishments over that period,” said Jack Weber, AFMC command historian. “Moreover, the command’s current efforts to plan and implement a streamlining of the organization from 12 to five centers, reduce unneeded overhead and emphasize efficiency make an excellent benchmark on which to focus on AFMC’s heritage built so solidly over the last 20 years.”
Established on July 1, 1992, AFMC resulted from the merger of Air Force Logistics Command and Air Force Systems Command.
Gen. Ronald W. Yates, AFMC’s first commander, said at the command’s stand-up that this latest organization combined both a look to the old and the new.
“It is an old command – certainly one of the oldest in the Air Force – because its roots go back to the earliest days of U.S. military aviation,” Yates said. “AFMC is also the newest major command in the Air Force, its creation the latest instance of the endless challenge of managing ever more complex weapon systems.”
AFMC traces its heritage to 1917 at McCook Field, a World War I-era, experimental engineering facility in Dayton, Ohio. With the birth of the U.S. Air Service in 1918, the organization became known as the Engineering Division and was expanded to include responsibility for the Air Corps’ logistics system.
It was re-designated the Air Corps Materiel Division in 1926. As the largest branch of the Air Corps, the Materiel Division was responsible for all aircraft and equipment research, development, procurement, maintenance, supply and flight tests.
The research, development and logistics functions were separated during World War II, but were subsequently reunited for several years during the late 1940s under the Air Materiel Command and structured around the strengths of technological superiority and worldwide logistics support.
“The work of AFMC’s precursor organizations was integral to the development, acquisition, testing, and sustainment of the weapon systems that enabled the United States to prevail in World War II and, ultimately, in the Cold War,” Weber said.
In 1950 the Air Research and Development Command broke out as a separate organization devoted strictly to research and development. In 1961, Air Materiel Command was re-designated Air Force Logistics Command, while the Air Research and Development Command gained the added responsibility for weapon system acquisition and was re-designated Air Force Systems Command.
Today, AFMC delivers war-winning expeditionary capabilities to the warfighter through development and transition of technology, professional acquisition management, exacting test and evaluation, and world-class sustainment of all Air Force weapon systems.
From its inception the command and its Airmen have been involved with operations that span the globe. As early as five months after AFMC’s start, the command supported the Air Force’s famine relief efforts in Somalia through airlift and refueling capabilities.
At the end of that decade, in 1999, AFMC provided critical support in Kosovo – then a province in Yugoslavia. Beginning in April and continuing through the end of the fiscal year, AFMC depots surged production to maintain proper stock levels and fill depleted readiness spares packages.
AFMC support marked the combat debut of the B-2A stealth bomber, armed with the Joint Direct Attack Munition that became the “weapon of choice” during the conflict, said Weber.
After Sept. 11, 2001, AFMC’s technological and logistical support of weapon systems also proved crucial to Operation Enduring Freedom. Currently, more than 1,200 AFMC Airmen support operations in the U.S. Central Command and Africa areas of responsibility.
The command currently supports nine host bases, and runs the Air Force’s medical and test pilot schools. AFMC’s workforce of more than 80,000 Airmen is comprised of approximately 6,000 officers, 13,000 enlisted and around 62,000 civilians – about 40 percent of the total number of civilians employed by the Air Force. This high civilian-to-military ratio is critical to providing the continuity needed to manage the life cycles of weapons system programs.
In November 2011, the command announced a restructure of its organizations – reducing AFMC’s centers from 12 to five – as part of several Air Force efficiency efforts.
The command’s 20th anniversary year was commemorated in March with the official release of the limited edition book “Air Force Materiel Command: 20 Years of Warfighter Support.”