Expeditionary Culture, Jumper Style

May 1, 2012

New Culture for a New Century

Gen. John P. Jumper, USAF

Address to AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium

Orlando, Fla.

February 26, 1998


In October 1994, Saddam Hussein moved Iraqi forces toward Kuwait. The US responded swiftly. Lt. Gen. John P. Jumper, US Central Command Air Forces commander, and key staff deployed within days. Air Force assets in the Gulf were augmented by 170 aircraft, and Saddam soon folded his hand. “Vigilant Warrior,” as this operation was called, led to the creation of “air expeditionary forces,” the basis of USAF organization today. By early 1998, Jumper was a four-star commander in Europe, but as an AEF creator, he had strong views about the culture needed to make the concept a success. In this speech, he warned that air and space warriors would have to become “tougher minded,” get back to basics, and become more self-reliant. The record of the past 15 years bore out his prediction.

I am going to take just a few minutes today to talk to you about our air expeditionary forces, the role I believe they are going to play in the next century of our Air Force, and the attendant culture I think has to develop in order for us to be effective as an expeditionary aerospace force.

The mid-1950s composite air strike force was a basic package that had a limited capability and built slowly into an extensive follow-on force. The typical force structure in the old air strike force put forth the best array of our complete capabilities, from troop carrier aircraft through long-range airplanes, reconnaissance, and strike aircraft. They deployed with about 30 days of sustainment, to a variety of crises happening throughout the world during that time period: Turkey, Taiwan, the Berlin Crisis, the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Today, in the modern era, we try to recapture the spirit, if not every detail, of that composite air strike force in the air expeditionary force….

We are developing a new generation of air and space warriors. What does that mean? This new generation of air and space warriors has to be tougher minded. It has to get back to the mentality of the old composite air strike force, where they used to live under the wing—they fly in, set up the tent city, and live off of meals ready to eat, for a week or so before sustainment airlift starts.

When they fly in, they may have some pre-positioned assets available to start the war but they are very light and very lean. They have the ability to protect themselves with information warfare, with the people who understand how to operate these systems. The command structure is very small but with good reachback capability.

In this culture, you have to get back to some basic institutional values. Every airman is a warrior. Every airman is a sensor. These basic institutional values say we will be qualified on a weapon. We will be able to keep up and maintain mobility bags. We will understand force protection, right down to the task level. We will have in our wallets the card showing the specific things that are expected of each of us in peace and in a crisis. And we will provide the continuity and training that makes each and every airman understand the basics of air and space planning and employment….

In developing this expeditionary force culture, force protection is a key issue. The traditional mindset that has developed over the years is an inside-the-fence mentality about force protection. This inside-the-fence mentality said it was the Air Force’s business to watch inside the fence; it was up to us to coordinate with or depend on others for whatever was to happen outside the fence. We had joint agreements that said the Army would watch us outside the wire, and that they would help train our people to have the capability inside the wire.

But these agreements, as it turns out, were only valid during times of declared war. It has become apparent that are we are going to have to take on some of this capability ourselves.

What we have learned and what we have to get is an idea of force protection that melds itself with the notions of air-based defense, so that we can protect ourselves both inside and reasonably outside the fence, with a new generation of technologies and doctrine that puts security forces at the forefront of our force protection resources.

The Air Force has done this with a unit at Lackland Air Force Base that is developing the technology through battle labs and experimentation to get us into this business. At Lackland, they are also breeding a new generation of warriors—graduates of the Ranger School. They have skills as snipers. They have skills in air-base defense, bringing in Stinger missiles and technologies of imaging infrared and other sensors around and outside the gate to protect our forces when they are deployed.

Then, finally, part of the culture is the understanding of the basic elements of air and space planning and execution. When the whistle blows, we are responding to a critical timeline, a timeline that can deploy forces into harm’s way inside the decision cycle of an enemy.

We have strategic mobility forces that can get us there quickly. We can respond quickly. We have the doctrine and the techniques to fight immediately when we arrive. At an airfield anywhere in the world, that first leading airlifter can get in there no matter how bad the weather is, and can set up whatever sort of technology is required to bring the follow-on airlift in there. We have the mobility assets and the willingness to live in tents over an extended period of time if we have to. Put airpower where the problem is.