Defense

July 23, 2012

Eglin missions remain, but under new names

Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, accepts the Air Armament Center guidon from Maj. Gen. Kenneth Merchant at the base transition ceremony July 18 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The official activation of the 96th Test Wing combined the 96th Air Base Wing and 46th Test Wing.

The diverse Air Armament Center missions at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., officially became part of two other Air Force Materiel Command centers during a ceremony July 18.

Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, officiated the ceremony.

Eglin’s air armament development and acquisition mission aligned to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. LCMC is led by Lt. Gen. C. D. Moore, a former 46th Test Wing Operations Group commander. Eglin’s test mission is now part of the Air Force Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif. That center’s commander, Brig. Gen. Arnold Bunch, was the Air Armament Center vice commander from June 2008 to March 2010.

As part of the same ceremony July 18, Eglin’s 96th Air Base Wing was redesignated the 96th Test Wing. The people and mission of the current 46th TW transition to the newly designated 96th TW and will be led by Brig. Gen. David A. Harris. The 96th TW, the largest in the Air Force, is aligned to the AFTC. The changes are part of an AFMC construct that consolidates the command’s number of centers from 12 to five.

The consolidation, announced in November 2011, is a major part of AFMC’s response to a Congressional challenge to find efficiencies and save tax dollars. By consolidating overhead, the command will improve the way it accomplishes its mission, ultimately providing better support to the war fighter. The restructure will standardize processes and save about $109 million annually.

“Eglin AFB and its people will continue to be critical to AFMC achieving its mission of providing war fighter support,” Wolfenbarger said. “The work done here is important not only to the AFMC mission, but to the greater Air Force mission as well.”

Also reporting to the Edwards center will be AFMC’s 412th Test Wing at Edwards and the Arnold Engineering and Development Complex at Arnold AFB, Tenn.

All the missions at Eglin will continue, but without redundant command staffs, thus eliminating layers of management overhead.

As its commander, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Merchant spoke about the accomplishments of the Air Armament Center before its deactivation. He talked about the history of the center, which stood up in October 1998 as part of the Air Force’s strategic plan to guide the service into the 21st century. He highlighted the advances in weapon systems, the partnerships and the people who developed technology and ensured the nation’s warriors are properly equipped to do their jobs.

“These weapons have significantly added to the war fighter’s quiver, but we’re far from finished,” the general said. “Today, we close the book on the Air Armament Center but our mission–to develop, test and produce war-winning weapons remains vital to our nation’s security objectives and it must continue under the new organizational construct.”

Once the flag of the center was furled, the 96th Test Wing and its new commander took center stage. Harris said the wing will work together for the mission and each other. His personal goal is “to make that unification of two honored wings into a single integrated unit worthy of the combined legacies of its parents.”

Harris assured those in attendance the mission hasn’t changed.

“Our workforce remains here at Eglin, productively employed,” he said. “The teamwork that has produced the most effective warriors and weapons in the world continues.”

Re-designation of the center at Edwards to the Air Force Test Center, establishment of AFLMC at Wright-Patterson, and establishment the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker AFB, Okla., are the first major steps of a transition phase during which center frameworks will be built and units will be assigned, leading up to initial operational capability on Oct. 1. Full operational capability is planned for mid-2013.

The test, sustainment and life cycle management centers will be joined by the present Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson and the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M., to complete AFMC’s five-center line-up.




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