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ARLINGTON, Va. — Personnel cuts and expanded air operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are straining the men and women of Air Combat Command, its leader, Gen. John Corley, said Thursday.

“We’re highly stressed,” Corley told reporters during a Washington press breakfast.

The Air Force is in the third year of a four-year project to reduce its active-duty force to 316,500 airmen to modernize an aging fleet.

Corley said he agrees the aging aircraft need updating, but there’s no question that, for Air Combat Command, “the reduction in terms of overall number of people [has] hurt.”

Adding to the pressure, he said, is ACC’s heavy participation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The command, headquartered at Langley Air Force Base, Va., provides about one-third of the 26,100 airmen deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, Corley said.

ACC personnel also tend to spend more time deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan than many of their Air Force counterparts, he said.

The Air Force’s Air Expeditionary Force rotation is designed around a standard four-month assignment. But Air Force-wide, about 12,100 airmen are doing six- or 12-month tours in 2008, according to Air Force Personnel Center statistics.

About 50 percent of the airmen on those extended tours are ACC personnel, Corley said.

ACC personnel in five career fields are particularly hard hit, Corley said: civil engineers, intelligence, transportation, military police and Security Forces.

Airmen in those five fields not only are doing most of the longer rotations, but “have dwell rates which are currently 1-1, or worse,” Corley said.

That means for every month an airman spends deployed, he gets one month back at home station before being sent back to the combat zone.

Some ACC airmen in the five career fields are getting a dwell ratio of 1-0.75, or three weeks at home for every month downrange, Corley said.

“Is that stressing on our people? Yes it is,” Corley said.

But “it’s not just the [ACC airmen] deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s the ones forward-deployed” who add to the personnel drain on the command, he said.

For example, Corley said, “I’m constantly rotating either B-52s or B-2s [both bombers] into Guam,” along with their crews.

There are also airmen “deployed in place,” he said — operators for the Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial systems — who are in such high demand Corley has canceled their normal rotations and reassignments.

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