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Command and control of AFCENT from Shaw, not CAOC

By Lt. Col. Brus E. Vidal U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs

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In a historic first, Airmen geographically separated from the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar executed all aspects of command and control of U.S. Air Forces Central Command’s air power from the United States.

In a proof of concept exercise conducted Sept. 28, 2019, Active Duty, Reserve, and Guard personnel executed the day’s air component operations from the 609th Air Support Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.

“We can effectively command and control air power from operations centers at locations other than here at the CAOC,” said Col. Trey Coleman, 609th Air Operations Center commander, while speaking to reporters observing the exercise.

“Today, command and control of the day’s air operations are happening from the United States at Shaw,” Coleman said, while pointing out the unoccupied CAOC floor at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. “In the future, it could happen from anywhere.”

At Shaw, the execution from the 193rd Air Operations Group and the 710th Combat Operations Squadron, the Air Reserve Component units for the 609th ASUS AOC, made this proof of concept exercise a Total Force success.

“The relationship between us is exceptional, they are what keeps the fight going,” said Col. Deborah Holinger, 710th COS reserve component commander and 609th ASUS AOC battle director. “When the 609th calls, we answer. We will continue to augment them, not only for exercises, but also for real-world missions. We consider ourselves sister squadrons. We stay in-touch on a regular basis. The support here for the combatant command is exceptional."

Coleman explained that while this event on Sept. 28 was a first, it will become a regular part of CAOC operations procedures.

“We will continue to conduct distributed operations from several locations,” said Coleman. “Going forward, we plan to make this a regular thing. We will command and control airpower from distributed locations for a portion of every 24-hour Air Tasking Order period.”

This distribution of operations supports USCENTCOM’s requirement for mission assurance.

“The ability to command and control air power in a distributed fashion adds resilience to AFCENT’s overall capability which, in turn, increases the operational depth and agility of AFCENT airpower,” said Maj. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, AFCENT deputy commander.

Saltzman further explained the significance of the event and why it is necessary to build and increase redundancy and resiliency.

“Our job is to deliver decisive air and space power for USCENTCOM and command and control is a critical enabler of that,” Saltzman said. “Because it is critical, there are actors in the region committed to destroying this capability.”

This event specifically addresses the threat to the command and control of USCENTCOM air component assets and processes.

“We now have the capability and capacity to control our forces from this location and secure locations back in the United States,” Saltzman said. “This resiliency assures that we can continue our mission to provide security and stability through airpower under any and all threat conditions and phases of operations.”

The CAOC is comprised of a coalition team which directs the broad spectrum of what air power brings to the fight.

 “Global vigilance, reach, and power are demonstrated in full force in our daily operations, including air, space and cyber capabilities,” said Canadian Brig. Gen. Alex Day, CAOC director, said. “Bringing our core missions to the joint fight, we function as the nerve center of the air campaign. This proof of concept demonstrates our flexibility in ensuring the job gets done.”