NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — For many Airmen deployments are hard to understand, and for leaders they’re hard to sell and to sustain. Implemented in October 2014, Air Expeditionary Forces Teaming was designed as a way to improve predictability, visibility and stability for units and Airmen while maintaining the flexibility to satisfy combatant commander requirements downrange.
Under the old deployment system, all Airmen were assigned to Unit Type Codes which were deployed with other UTCs to a combatant commander’s area of responsibility.
Each Air Force specialty code was assigned a different UTC and could deploy to anywhere their UTC was needed, within their deployment vulnerability window — which varied for every UTC. The number of Airmen in a particular UTC also varied from one to a few hundred, depending on the capability it provided. For example, if a combatant commander needed a public affairs capability, three Airmen could be tasked under one UTC to fill the need; but if that same commander needed a close air support capability, hundreds of Airmen from maintenance and operations squadrons could be tasked under a single UTC.
Needless to say, dwell ratios — the period of time deployed or vulnerable for deployment versus time spent at home station — also varied for each UTC from 1:1 to 1:4.
“That’s the way we used to do business. (Deployers) were pulled from the whole career field, and you could be (stationed) anywhere, but deploy anywhere your UTC was needed,” said Joel Doran, 99th Logistics Readiness Squadron installation deployment officer for Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases, and the Nevada Test and Training Range.
A major change brought by AEF Teaming is now every home-station installation is responsible for supplying manpower to specific installations in-theater. Support to those in-theater installations will no longer be comprised of Airmen from all over the Air Force, but rather with Airmen from only a few home-station installations.
Each home-station installation is also tasked with filling two out of the six deployment cycles for in-theater installations, which means every Airman on base will be vulnerable for deployments in one of the two cycles. With the new construct, dwell times for all Airmen, regardless of AFSC or UTC, is 1:2 — deployed or vulnerable to deploy for six months every 18 months.
“In the joint environment, joint commanders are used to pulling bigger forces. The Marines have three Marine Expeditionary Forces, so that commanders could pull the 3rd MEF out of the (Pacific Command) area and they know what they’re getting, but for us we used to say UTC, so you can get a logistics troop from here and security forces from over there, but now they can get agile combat support from Nellis and it will have everything that commander needs,” said Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Ray, 99th LRS Installation Deployment Readiness Center superintendent.
Under AEF Teaming, members are still assigned an AEF indicator — as they were under the old system — which tells Airmen when they are entering deployment-vulnerability periods.
This new concept also eliminates most “Onesie, twosie” deployments, but individuals can still be pulled during their vulnerability periods to a different in-theater installation if its assigned home-station installation cannot fill the need. For example, if Nellis AFB’s assigned in-theater installation needs a 13-man security forces team but Nellis AFB can’t provide all 13 bodies, an Airman from another base could be tasked to fill that vacancy.
Although some Airmen may deploy less often under AEF Teaming then they did under the old system, Doran said, there are a few draw-backs to the new system.
“What we are starting to see a little bit is that even if individuals are vulnerable in a particular cycle, they can move anytime in that cycle. So the majority of them are leaving in the beginning of the cycle and getting back in the end, but some individuals are leaving in the middle or toward the end of the cycle, so you’re having to shift manpower because we have individuals not back yet and other individuals are going out the door at the same time,” Doran said. “Also, when Red Flag, Green Flag, Cyber Flag or any exercise we support comes in, our population on base can increase by two to four thousand people, including 80 to 100 aircraft, so our mission becomes longer now because we have more population and more aircraft with less (Nellis AFB-assigned) people here.”
Although, there are some negatives with AEF Teaming, Ray said focusing on teaming will ultimately increase combat capability and unit cohesiveness, both at home station and down range.
“You work at home together, you deploy together, that way it’s a lot easier when you hit the ground because there’s not that team-building time that’s usually required,” Ray said. “It may be rough here because of our home-station mission, but a big positive is its predictability, transparency and it’s equitable. What that means is everybody has the same chance of getting tasked. Everyone knows what period they’re in, everybody knows when they’re going and when the Airman next to them is going. Also, when you get to a base and assigned a band, you’re going to stay in that band during the duration of your time at that installation.”
For more information about AEF Teaming, contact your local unit deployment manager or visit AEF Online at its Common Access Card-enabled website.