Shaw's Ninth Air Force now certified as joint task force-capable headquarters


9th Air Force Public Affairs, Shaw Air Force Base

The exercise took place Dec. 10-14 and demonstrated Ninth Air Force has the initial operating capability (IOC) to stand up as a joint task force-capable HQ.

As part of the United States Air Force's strategic initiative to strengthen joint leaders and teams, Ninth AF will now provide the Department of Defense with an air-centric capability to task during crisis operations and be offered as part of the dynamic force employment model to meet the DoD's new National Defense Strategy for more integrated and multi-domain operations.

"The DoD added one more arrow to its joint quiver with Ninth AF's IOC certification as a JTF-capable headquarters," U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott J. Zobrist, Ninth AF commander, said. "Ninth AF will be a complementary asset to our joint partners whether in a supported or supporting role."

MRX 19-2 was a culmination of a year's worth of exercises that started in November 2017. Ninth AF now aligns with the Air Force Chief of Staff's objective stated at the Air Force Association Air, Space & Cyber Symposium in September 2017 - to be that viable Air Force option for the DoD.

Each staff exercise (STAFFEX) gave Ninth AF leaders a platform to enable airmen assigned to the organization to become proficient in tasks required of a JTF headquarters staff.

"The STAFFEXs allowed us to build our processes and improve them from exercise to exercise, whereas the MRX really allowed us to put them into practice and validate them," U.S. Air Force Col. Sean Cosden, J3 Operations Directorate director, said. "The MRX provided an opportunity with a large number of partners across the joint world, including our Air Reserve Component [ARC] partners and coalition partners, to integrate and validate.

"The processes we were practicing were the same, and the STAFFEXs allowed us to look at different combatant commands and mission sets to build a broad set of capabilities as opposed to being narrowly focused. It's that broad focus that enabled us to achieve IOC and paves the way to FOC [full operational capability]," Cosden continued.

Throughout it all, Ninth AF leveraged the collective experience of U.S. Air Force ARC members and joint partners both from Guard and Reserve units, as well as those assigned to the U.S. Transportation Command's Joint Enabling Capabilities Command.

"As part of our core competencies as an enabling capability, we have a ready force of planners and communicators who can deploy to help form a JTF with unique communication capabilities and joint planning experience," said U.S. Army Col. Dana Stowell, JECC mission tailored package lead. "Our team members were able to gain valuable joint planning and JTF forming experience that enhances our capabilities to support the joint force. Every time we get to work with joint partners, we're establishing important relationships and connections as those organizations move forward and continue to operate."

MRX 19-2 expanded the role of Ninth AF's partners with the addition of more than 10 United Kingdom participants for international collaboration.

"The Royal Air Force's role was absolutely about cooperation and interoperability," RAF Wing Cmdr. Philip Holdcroft, Ninth AF J3 exchange officer, said. "It was also a forcing function for Ninth AF to incorporate coalition members into the JTF and hopefully providing greater diversity of thought in planning. Also, the RAF participation is aligned with the standup of 11 Group, a multi-domain operations group. The RAF gained a shared understanding of how a U.S. Air Force JTF would operate and how the United Kingdom would integrate, complement and successfully reinforce the JTF."

In addition, more than 30 airmen with the 5th Combat Communications Group provided the integral communication piece of the JTF with an expanded Flexible Communication Package. The 93rd Air Ground Operation Wing's 820th Base Defense Group from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, and 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw also provided airmen dedicated to security and a camp commandant to facilitate different issues that arose at the forward headquarters, respectively.

In total, there were more than 250 participants at four locations across Shaw. Ninth AF now turns its focus toward achieving FOC as a JTF-capable headquarters.