MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only constant in life is change.” That’s true in how we learn, how we teach, and even how the military operates in the defense of the United States, its interests, and its allies.
It is that thought of change that 24 U.S. Airmen assigned to various units of the 35th Fighter Wing came together during an Agile Combat Employment, or ACE, practice capstone event at Misawa Air Base, Japan, March 13, 2020.
“Our world is changing,” said Master Sgt. Alexander Wieczorek, 35th Fighter Wing Inspector General Wing Plans and Programs manager. “The Air Force that I was raised for - the Air Expeditionary Force concept, where large force modules deployed forward at established air bases - that time is coming to an end, and we have to be predictive of the future.”
Under the ACE concept, units would deploy to austere locations with smaller teams of Airmen who are capable of establishing and sustaining base operations.
In an ever-changing world, Wieczorek said preparing for the future can be hard, but it is possible when considering what is at the core of the ACE concept - multi-capable Airmen, or MCAs.
“If we know we have people who do a lot of things okay, maybe not a perfectionist at everything but by making them broadly capable, they are going to make the overall mission effective,” he said.
During the practice capstone, and at the previous training events earlier this year, Airmen of all ranks and career fields, or Air Force specialty codes, taught and learned from each other.
“We get a good basic knowledge every single time we come out and do training,” said Airman 1st Class Chris McCormick, a pavement and heavy equipment technician with the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron. “Everyone is getting substantially better and more comfortable around each other (with each training).”
According to Wieczorek, MCAs are not meant to be subject matter experts but rather capable assitants to the SMEs as they perform their jobs, allowing for smaller more efficient teams.
“If your core AFSC’s duties are done for that time, then you can rotate over in this lean team and be effective to help someone else do their job,” Wieczorek said.
Wieczorek understands this training may not seem useful to Airmen at their home station, beyond making Airmen more valuable assets for missions, but he looks at ACE training like his emergency planning for his family.
“I tell my daughter when we go to an air show, ‘If you get separated, we are going to go toward this place,’” he said. “Having a plan and knowing that if an emergency does arise, you know what you can do. You know what your capabilities are.”
Additionally, by having MCAs who are able to form teams to execute ACE missions, units increase their ability to deter aggression as smaller teams will be capable of deploying to various austere locations as opposed to the established locations typically found under the AEF concept.
“We become less of targets of opportunity by being able to be more nimble and more agile. That’s in the name,” Wieczorek said.
Though change is inevitable, Misawa Airmen are continuing to take up the challenge to be agile, capable, and ready for whatever comes their way.