SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
Ninth Air Force advanced through its fifth Staff Exercise (STAFFEX) Aug. 13 through 17, focusing on operations in the U.S. Southern Command theater.
Ninth AF leaders are using STAFFEXs to enable Airmen assigned to the organization to become proficient in tasks required of a Joint Task Force (JTF) headquarters staff.
Leveraging lessons learned in previous exercises, this iteration concentrated on the Joint Planning Process (JPP) and forming a JTF headquarters, adding the functions of writing a Concept of Operations and Operational Order (OPORD) to the mix.
“The JPP is a perishable skill. One must continue to plan under the JPP for it to become repetitious, routine, familiar, and habitual,” said retired Col. Rhude Cherry III, a contracted Apogee Engineering LLC site lead for the JTF and Rear Mission Support Element.
Previously the Ninth AF deputy commander, Cherry was heavily involved in developing plans to transform Ninth AF into a certified JTF-capable headquarters. He compared refining the JPP to learning to cook or bake a new recipe in the kitchen.
According to Cherry, one would initially be unfamiliar with the recipe and maybe the layout of the kitchen. As he or she uses the recipe more often, the individual would become more familiar with the recipe and kitchen, and ultimately, the recipe would become second nature. In this way, so would someone who continually employs the JPP.
“You always want to improve from the last exercise, and the only way to do that is by continuing to conduct the JPP at each one,” Cherry added.
In addition to Air Force active duty, Guard, and Reserve, the U.S. Army contributed to this STAFFEX. Five Soldiers from the West Virginia Army National Guard (WVARNG) participated.
“Our joint mission partner brought tremendously valuable experience,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Mark Dmytryszyn, Ninth AF Chief of Staff. “They added not only forcible entry options but brought capability and capacity to other mission areas [such as] humanitarian relief options, security and stability, and valuable civil affairs interactions including medical assistance and security training. We look forward to continuing to integrate opportunities with our sister service partners who bring experience across the continuum of conflict.”
One such mission area involved the J-3 Operations Directorate where U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Connell, WVARNG STAFFEX Security Forces Liaison Officer (LNO), facilitated key special operations forces (SOF) knowledge for the exercise.
“I provided a lot of the SOF perspective during the COA [course of action] portion, offering those second and third order effects of a large-scale operation,” Connell said.
The LNO added that due to his familiarity with aspects of the JPP he was able to help with the OPORD writing, as well as provide planning considerations to the J-3 directorate on certain capabilities of Army units.
U.S. Air Force Col. Sean Cosden, J-3 director, highlighted Connell’s efforts and said Ninth AF “never would have been able to [write the OPORD] without his Army expertise.”
As Ninth Air Force progresses toward initial certification in December, future STAFFEXs will familiarize participants with other combatant commands and mission sets, in addition to the JPP and forming process.
Additionally, each STAFFEX helps the Ninth Air Force move closer toward achieving Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein’s vision -- an Air Force JTF-capable headquarters.