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Fourth AF Joint Task Force HQ STAFFEX highlights African humanitarian assistance mission

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Amanda Dick
  • 9th Air Force Public Affairs
Ninth Air Force held its fourth Staff Exercise (STAFFEX) June 18 through 22 since being tasked by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein to stand up an Air Force Joint Task Force (JTF)-capable headquarters.

The June exercise focused on a fresh scenario and Combatant Command (CCMD) not evaluated in previous iterations -- humanitarian assistance in the U.S. Africa Command Area of Responsibility (AOR).

“The purpose of STAFFEX 18-4 was to expose 9th AF staff to another mission set and expand their knowledge,” said Maj. Rob Arduini, 9th Air Force STAFFEX 18-4 planner. “… We are trying to expose ourselves to mission sets we could perform as a JTF, which only enhance our capabilities when we are called upon as one.

“Similar to the mission sets, we want to expose ourselves to all six of the geographic Combatant Commands, and U.S. Africa Command is an AOR where a lot of humanitarian assistance is needed,” Arduini continued.

This STAFFEX also had some new facets outside mission or location, especially with the addition of a Surgeon General section filled by two Public Health technicians who added a layer of planning 9th AF does not currently have on staff.

“Our job in this exercise was to provide medical guidance on things like proper sanitization and immunization for those headed in country. We provided the medical reference for the commander,” said Staff Sgt. Shane DeHuff, STAFFEX 18-4 medical planner and a 110th Medical Group Public Health technician from the Michigan Air National Guard (MIANG).

According to Tech. Sgt. James Mack, STAFFEX 18-4 medical planner and a 127th Medical Group Public Health technician from the MIANG, much of that medical guidance was determining what type of sanitization, immunization, or Expeditionary Medical Support package would be needed for the exercise’s AOR.

For 9th AF staff, Public Health was integral to the exercising the scenario.

“Public Health is absolutely critical to any humanitarian mission, particularly in a place like Africa where significant medical risks exist,” said Maj. Gen. Scott J. Zobrist, 9th AF commander. “Having Public Health engaged in our scenario forced us to think about and plan for medical issues we had not previously encountered.”

Another vital piece to STAFFEX 18-4 included the expanded role of the Air Reserve Components (ARC) like that of DeHuff and Mack. In addition to Michigan, this iteration included ARC members from units in California, West Virginia, and Connecticut.

“The Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard continue to play a huge role in our JTF manning,” Zobrist explained. “When operational, roughly half of our JTF manpower will come from the ARC. In addition to military proficiency, our Guardsmen and Reservists bring a host of other real-world experiences and fields of expertise to our JTF.”

Although this STAFFEX included a heavy ARC role, the plan includes for more joint and coalition partners to be incorporated into future iterations.

“As we near our certification exercise in December, we will further expand the diversity of our JTF manning with increased participation from our sister services and even from the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force,” Zobrist stated. “The RAF plans to embed a permanent staff officer in the 9th Air Force JTF staff.”

Lessons learned from the June STAFFEX will be rolled into 9th Air Force’s JTF “playbook” to “form the foundation for future planning materials” used whenever the unit becomes operational as a JTF headquarters, according to Zobrist.

The next STAFFEX is scheduled to cover the U.S. Central Command AOR and will be held in August.