3rd Air Force returning to Europe as part of reorganization
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The 3rd Air Force’s storied history has helped it rise from out of the history books.
The command, which was deactivated nearly a year ago, will take on a new role as part of a reorganization of numbered air forces in Europe, said Brig. Gen. Michael Snodgrass, director of Plans, Programs and Requirements at U.S. Air Forces in Europe headquarters in Germany.
Under the changes that will officially take place in December, the 3rd will be based at Ramstein Air Base and will be responsible for organizing, training and equipping wings stationed in Europe.
The 3rd also will serve as a “warfighting headquarters” and have the job of planning combat and humanitarian operations. Lt. Gen. Robert Bishop Jr., who now serves as U.S. Air Forces in Europe vice commander, will take over the command.
In addition, the 16th Air Force, which previously served in the “warfighting” role at Ramstein, will move to Izmir, Turkey, in name only and become what is being called an “air expeditionary task force” that could be set up if the need arises. Lt. Gen. Maurice “Lee” McFann Jr. is commander of both Allied Air Component Command Izmir and 16th Air Expeditionary Task Force.
The return of the 3rd Air Force emerged after the Pentagon announced in September that Bishop would take over the deactivated command. USAFE headquarters confirmed earlier this month that the command would return but released few details because the changes were still being negotiated and nations involved in the reorganization had to be notified.
The need for the Air Force to keep close ties with its heritage and a better distribution of responsibilities among the senior leaders in Europe are the main reasons for the organizational changes, Snodgrass said.
They grew out of a desire by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley to retain the numbered Air Force’s legacy and Gen. James Jones, commander of the U.S. European Command, wanting the air component commander in Turkey to put more focus on NATO duties in that region. The commander in Izmir previously headed the 16th, even though its 650 staff members were based in Ramstein. The commander’s staff in Turkey will have only seven people, according to the USAFE public affairs office.
Snodgrass said the changes would be fairly transparent to the majority of the airmen based in Europe.
“Their day-to-day job doesn’t change,” he said. “And part of the reason it takes us time to [reorganize] is to make sure of that. We want to ensure that this doesn’t affect any of our capabilities at all.”