ARLINGTON, Va. — About 2,300 airmen assigned to the Air and Space Expeditionary Force’s “Blue” team will remain deployed longer than the planned 120 days, according to Air Force Maj. Gen. Timothy A. Peppe, special assistant for AEF matters at the Pentagon.
There are 10 AEF wings, each with about 15,000 personnel. Rotation plans call for AEF wings to be activated on a 15-month cycle, which includes a 10-month training period, two months to prepare for deployment, and three months in which the force is actually eligible to deploy.
But Operation Iraqi Freedom’s quick follow-on to Operation Enduring Freedom, along with the increase in Pacific Air Forces in response to tension with North Korea, threw that schedule off.
In June, Air Force officials announced the creation of two “transitional” AEFs, Blue and Silver, which would be used to get the AEF rotations back on track.
The 22,000 Blue team members began deploying to various locations in July, with replacement by the Silver team scheduled to begin 120 days later, in November.
But about 2,300 Blue team airmen will stay deployed longer, Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Stephanie Holcombe confirmed Thursday.
Peppe first announced the extended Blue deployments last week, in an interview with the Air Force’s internal news service.
In that interview, Peppe said that the airmen who will stay deployed longer are “those folks are in what we term our stressed career fields.”
The largest stressed field is security forces, Peppe said, while “some of the others may include air traffic control, civil engineering, services, medical and intelligence personnel.”
There was no information available on how much longer than 120 days the 2,300 airmen could expect to stay deployed.
Meanwhile, officials at the AEF Center at Langley Air Force Base, Va., are still working with combatant commanders and Air Force components to decide how many airmen will be required for AEF Silver, Peppe said.
The working number for the time being is about 17,000, but the final figure has yet to be determined, he said.
Once the Silver team finishes its scheduled deployment in March, Air Force officials say the AEF rotations should be back on track.