Some airmen facing longer deployments
ARLINGTON, Va. — By March, the Pacific Air Forces fighter wings that fought in Iraq will be ready to go back to the normal, 90-day Air Expeditionary Force rotation cycles.
But many airmen who support the aviators will remain on longer deployment cycles, a senior Air Force official said Tuesday.
“After the war was over, we got our aircraft back relatively quickly, and they’ve been in the process of reconstituting,” Gen. William Begert, commander of Pacific Air Forces, told reporters in Washington. “By March, they’ll be ready for a normal rotation.”
But the support personnel are another story, Begert said.
“I think it’s going to be a while before we go back to [routine] 90-day deployments on the support side,” Begert said. “They’re still in the process of breathing pretty hard.”
There are 10 AEF wings, each with about 15,000 people. 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 escalating tensions with North Korea, threw that schedule off track.
In June, officials announced the creation of two “transitional” AEFs, Blue and Silver, that would be used to get rotations back on track.
But that “fix” also has undergone delays, with at least 2,300 airmen from the first team out, the “Blue” team, deployed longer than the scheduled 120 days.
Some Pacific Forces airmen have been deployed for as many as 179 days, Begert said.
Begert said that airmen who are most often tapped for the long deployments are those in the Air Force’s “stressed career fields,” particularly security, but also air traffic control, civil engineering, services, medical and intelligence personnel.
Some support personnel may be ready to go back to 90-day deployments in March along with the aviators, but others, from the stressed fields, will not, Begert said.
“It’s literally career-field-by-career-field at this point” as far as who draws the short straw, Begert said.