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Air Force tests new wing structure that eliminates group commanders

Senior Airman Zachary Dobsch, 366th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, inspects an F-15E Strike Eagle in December at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. (JANAE CAPUNO/U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO)

The Air Force is cutting a layer of bureaucracy in an experimental effort aimed at making its fighting forces more lethal.

This month, the 366th Fighter Wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, began testing a new wing structure that does away with aircraft maintenance squadron, group and vice wing commanders, an Air Combat Command statement said.

Squadron commanders are reporting directly to the wing commander, who has two deputies and a surgeon helping guide and evaluate operations and support squadron-level decisions.

Groups, usually led by colonels who liaise between wing leadership and squadron commanders, are eliminated under the new structure, which places aircraft maintainers with aircraft squadrons, the statement said.

“This experiment is about our desire to improve lethality and create an environment where leaders are empowered to lead, and squadron personnel can focus on their core missions,” Gen. Mike Holmes, who leads Air Combat Command, said in the statement.

“This concept should flatten the decision-making structure within wings to encourage faster, decentralized decision-making and to remove some duties from our front-line units,” he said.

The two-year test will compare the 366th to similar units organized under the old structure. The ranks and positions of personnel are changing, but the number of airmen assigned to Mountain Home stays the same, the statement said.

“This experiment is aimed at revitalizing our squadrons by allowing them to focus on the mission while pushing administrative duties to a wing staff,” 366th commander Col. Joseph Kunkel said in the statement. “This puts decision-making authority and accountability for the mission at the squadron level. That’s where we need it to be to build the squadrons and leaders we need for tomorrow’s challenges.”

Tech. Sgt. Cameron Bagley, a member of the 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, said only time will tell if the experiment works.

“Wing commanders have so much to do already,” he said. “I don’t know if eliminating group commanders will help them make decisions. Group commanders have value, because they’re specialists in the field they manage.”

Bagley doubted a reorganization would impact maintainers.

“Junior airmen will turn a wrench either way,” he said.


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