49th Wing initiates transition to A-staff structure

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Victor J. Caputo
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

The 49th Wing stood up its first A-staff, one of three wings in Air Education and Training Command to begin this transition ahead of the command-wide implementation later this year.

The 49th Wing A-Staff achieved initial operational capability in the beginning of April, with the rest of the quarter dedicated to evaluate and optimize the system before reaching full implementation.

“By doing this Phase 1, we get the chance to blaze the trail for the 19th Air Force,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Dale Weller, 49th Wing Director of staff.

Summertime will see the A-staff reach full operational capability in time to share the best practices and lessons learned from the 49th Wing integration with the many other wings throughout the 19th AF and AETC.

This transition will ensure all combat aircrew training with the 49th Wing will start their Air Force careers with a more fundamental alignment with joint partners. This essential framework will allow them to execute rapid decision-making and responsiveness, and build the leaders needed to fight and win the conflicts of the future.

Wing-level implementation of an A-staff construct is a directive of Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., aimed at more closely aligning the structure of Air Force to its sister services at the lowest level, increasing interoperability and cohesion in joint settings, a necessity for any future armed conflicts.

This addition to the existing 49th Wing structure will streamline taskings and operational requests from higher headquarters as they filter down to the squadron level.

“The real intent is to consolidate everything that isn’t ‘doing the mission’ and give back that time to the mission-doers who were handling chaff or staff work,” said Daniel Cass, 49th Wing Chief of Staff. “We’re going to take all the things you dread, and you get to just do the stuff you joined the Air Force to do.”

Posturing for the future fight

While some of the first forays into a wing-level A-staff involved the elimination of groups, the 49th Wing will not eschew the traditional wing – group – squadron structure that all Airmen are already familiar with. The new A-staff serves as an administrative organ for the Wing Commander run by subject matter experts for every area of the wing mission. None of the day-to-day operations of the wing will be changing.

This new structure also lines up Air Force organizational structures with both joint and allied partners, the majority of which operate on the numbered staff system. Airmen will now be familiar with the structure inherently, instead of getting their first exposure during a deployment like so many Airmen had to in the past.

“If you train your Airmen to be a clone of yourself, when they reach your point in their career, they’ll be 10 – 20 years behind the fight they’re expected to fight,” said Cass. “For new Airmen, in 10 – 20 years, if we’re in a conflict and they’re operating in a joint environment, it’ll be second nature to them because they’ve operated in that structure since they came in.”

The 49th Wing A-Staff is structured as follows:

  • A1 – Manpower, Personnel & Services
  • A2 – Intelligence
  • A3 – Training & Operations
  • A4 – Maintenance & Logistics
  • A5 – Plans & Programs
  • A6/7 – Installation Management & Support

Each component has several sub-sets, such as the A1M for manpower or A4K for contracting. The structural nature of the A-staff allows adjustments down the line to account for unexpected challenges or streamlining processes.

Giving time back to the warfighters

As one of the largest formal training units in the Air Force, the 49th Wing was the natural choice for the first phase of implementation before the rest of the numbered air force and AETC transitioned into the new structure. All operations under the wing are fundamentally tied into the execution and improvement of its core mission: Building Combat Aircrew.

“Rather than making sure the squadron is operating well, commanders can find themselves as these kind of communication nodes for many different people and organizations,” said Weller. “Commanders obviously should be communicators, but they should be communicating down into their units, talking about what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong and how they’re contributing to the mission overall. They shouldn’t exist just to communicate to the higher staff.”

For example, the wing A3 may receive a task for sending F-16 Viper crews to support an exercise, where they will then simultaneously send the requirements to the fighter squadron commander while keeping the wing commander informed. This allows the fighter squadron commander to focus on preparing his crews for mission execution instead of juggling the command aspect with the coordination up the chain to their group commander, wing commander, and Numbered Air Force A3.

Eliminating redundancy of communication gives commanders the bandwidth they need to run a squadron effectively and efficiently without having to worry about balancing between committing valuable time to keep every level of leadership looped into the process or passing on data and decision-making points to the necessary operational components, said Weller.