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AFCENT command and control operations weather the storm

A satellite image of Hurricane Florence shows the storm off the coast of North Carolina.  Florence made landfall as a category one storm.  Despite the storm’s surge, rain and wind, Airmen assigned to the 609th Air Operations Center and U.S. Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, continued supporting AFCENT military operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

A satellite image of Hurricane Florence shows the storm off the coast of North Carolina. Florence made landfall as a category one storm. Despite the storm’s surge, rain and wind, Airmen assigned to the 609th Air Operations Center and U.S. Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, continued supporting AFCENT military operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

An Airman assigned to the 609th Air Operations Center works on the combat operations division floor at the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 16, 2017. Despite Hurricane Florence hitting South Carolina last week, Airmen assigned to the 609th AOC Detachment 1 at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, continued operations without interruption in support of U.S. Central Command military operations. AFCENT has adopted a distributed command and control model for operations, meaning organizations at multiple locations enable combat operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

An Airman assigned to the 609th Air Operations Center works on the combat operations division floor at the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 16, 2017. Despite Hurricane Florence hitting South Carolina last week, Airmen assigned to the 609th AOC Detachment 1 at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, continued operations without interruption in support of U.S. Central Command military operations. AFCENT has adopted a distributed command and control model for operations, meaning organizations at multiple locations enable combat operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --

As a violent force approached, the Airmen dug in to repel the force. It was just like an attack, but this one came from nature.

 

Hundreds of miles wide, the force posed a devastating threat. Undeterred, the Airmen assessed the situation, developed and refined their plan and prepared to continue operations. 

 

The force smashed into their northern and western flank, but still, the Airmen stayed focused on the U.S. Central Command mission, a fight thousands of miles away. The opposing force was no enemy, however. These Airmen of the 609th Air Operations Center, Detachment 1, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, faced Hurricane Florence. 

 

Airmen of the 609th AOC Det. 1 support real-world command and control operations everyday with AFCENT’s forward headquarters at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Whether it’s ensuring the Combined Air Operations Center maintains resiliency in the face of any attack or situation, or planning hundreds of daily air mobility missions, this partnership between the Airmen in Qatar and the U.S. is essential to a new model of C2 operations.

 

Last week, these AFCENT Airmen balanced the priorities of continuing to support airpower operations in the CENTCOM area of responsibility, all while preparing their Shaw Air Force Base military headquarters and their homes for Florence’s onslaught. 

 

Florence slammed into North and South Carolina devastating multiple communities and families. The U.S. Air Force evacuated aircraft from multiple installations to avoid damage. 

 

Yet continuing C2 operations in the face of Florence’s extraordinary attack was vital to AFCENT continuing day-to-day operations in support of U.S. Central Command military objectives. AFCENT Airmen and Joint forces work together daily to offset Iran’s significant destabilizing force all while leading a diverse coalition that delivers airpower in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Operation Inherent Resolve, respectively. 

 

“The National Defense Strategy inspires us to develop cutting-edge C4I operations that foster U.S. deterrence credibility into the future of advanced high-end warfare,” said Col. Paul “PJ” Maykish, 609th Air Operations Center commander. “Hurricane Florence helped us do our part of the strategy by proving our C2 concepts faster. Florence enhanced our convictions that we can operate from anywhere.” C4I refers to command and control, communications, computers and intelligence.

 

AFCENT has adopted a distributed model of C2 operations, meaning that multiple organizations at a handful of locations combine to shoulder the operational level of war. 

 

The 609th AOC Det. 1 commander, Lt. Col. Marlon “Nooner” Strickland said, “We’re experimenting with distributed command and control operations, putting the Air Force on the leading edge for how we can operate in the future. Florence compelled us to re-distribute these real-world C2 operations in the U.S. to three different locations. We were ready.”

 

Distribution of forces is a timeless military tactic making it difficult for any enemy or attack to defeat a force or, raising the stakes of doing so. 

 

AFCENT’s model of distributing operational-level warfare however, is cutting edge resilience.

“Just as flexibility is key to airpower, resiliency is a key to command and control,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, Combined Forces Air Component Commander for U.S. Central Command. “As our adversaries observe us providing credible airpower across CENTCOM, over 1,000 aviation events per day, they will also see that the C2 of these operations is resilient and not dependent on one location or mission system.”