Air Combat Command is testing a new way to organize wings that would get rid of group commanders and the vice wing commander, and increasingly give squadron commanders the ear of the wing commander.
The 366th Fighter Wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho is experimenting with the new organizational structure beginning this month, ACC said in a May 17 release.
Squadron commanders in the reorganized wing would report directly to the wing commander, ACC said.
The wing commander also would have two deputy commanders to advise and assist him in guiding and evaluating squadron operations, the release said, as well as “supporting and deconflicting squadron-level decisions.”
“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,” ACC commander Gen. Mike Holmes, who ordered the test, said in the release. “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.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein has made revitalizing the squadron structure of the service ― which he has called the “beating heart of the Air Force” ― one of his top priorities. Part of that effort has been to empower squadron commanders with more authority to make decisions.
“If we trust that commander with the most destructive weaponry on the planet, by God, we can trust them with decision authority as well,” Goldfein said in 2017.
ACC hopes the new structure at the 366th will help improve squadron readiness, develop unit leaders and encourage innovation, the release said. The test will last two years.
It also cuts out the wing’s overarching aircraft maintenance squadron, and puts the aircraft maintenance units directly with each fighter squadron.
And it will create an A-staff structure at the wing similar to the organizational model used by major commands and Air Force headquarters. This will create a dedicated staff of functional experts on topics like manpower and personnel, intelligence, logistics and communication, and work together with their counterparts at higher headquarters. the release said.
The number of airmen assigned to Mountain Home will not change, ACC said, though the rank and positions of some personnel will change.
ACC and the 36th have set up working groups and put together a plan on how it will test the structure out over the next two years, the release 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,” Col. Joseph Kunkel, commander of the 366th, said in the release. “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.”
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.