AEF evolves to reflect dwell-ratios stressed career fields

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Russell Wicke
  • Air Combat Command Public Affairs
The Air Force will soon implement an amendment to the Air Expeditionary Force deployment cycle that will better reflect the deployment-tempo of stressed career fields.

Currently more than 45 percent of the 35,000 Airmen fighting in the Global War on Terrorism are deployed out of their scheduled AEF deployment cycle because of high demands and minimal manning.

"We have been living under the current circumstance with many exceptions to policy," said Col. Matt Erichsen, ACC chief of operations division, "and if you're going to live with an exception to policy for a very long time, it should at that point be a part of your policy."

The original AEF cycle is divided into five pairs designed to have all Airmen on a 1:4 dwell ratio for deployment. In other words, during contingency Airmen should expect to deploy for 120 days and return home for 480 days. Manning for almost half of the Air Force career fields make it impossible to maintain the 1:4 ratio in current circumstances.

Under the new construct, called AEF Evolution, each career field will fall into a different category of deployment cycles. Career fields in higher demand will have smaller dwell ratios (or more frequent deployments). The deployment categories are called tempo bands. The Air Force has created five tempo bands: "A" through "E". Tempo Band "A" reflects the original AEF cycle of a 1:4 dwell ration based on 120-day deployments.

Bands "B" through "E" are based on 179-day deployments. Tempo band "B" is a 1:4 dwell ratio - or six months deployed 24 months home.

Tempo band "C" is a 1:3 dwell, band "D" is a 1:2 dwell and band "E," reserved for the most stressed career fields, is a 1:1 dwell, or six months out, six months in.

Tempo bands "B" through "E" have been added to provide predictability, structure and rule sets for the nearly 50 percent of functional areas currently operating at a tempo greater than 1:4 or for a duration greater than 120 days.

Airmen can expect the tempo banning to go into effect as early as October. They will be able to see what tempo band they fall under by viewing their profile in the Air Force Portal. Information on the Portal is scheduled to be in place by December.
According to Robert Ryan, 53d Wing's deployment officer, most of the 53d Wing's deployable units haven't been affected yet.
Public Affairs has been the only functional area banded so far according to Mr. Ryan. But he says electronic warfare officers, rated officers and intelligence personnel, all of which are highly deployable now, could see tempo banding very soon.

These changes were recommended by the AEF Steering Group to provide increased predictability of tour length and tempo for Airmen. The improvements are not intended to change how often or how long Airmen deploy, but instead they will synchronize the AEF with the joint-planning process and allow the Air Force to more efficiently meet combatant-commander requirements.

"You can think of it more as truth in advertising for our Airmen," said Lt. Col. Ed Swanson, ACC chief of AEF provisioning branch. "What we want to do is create these tempo bands to reflect what the career fields are presently doing - so they have better predictability and know when their rotations will be." Colonel Swanson said it enables Airmen to make life-plans accurately for their families.

It also aligns the Air Force deployments and planning with the rest of the military services.

"When we plan out [deployments and operations] ... we're planning 20 months out," said Colonel Swanson. "The rest of the [military] community is planning 24 months out. So we're off cycle with them, and have never aligned correctly."

The Air Force Reserve won't be placed in tempo bands like active-duty Airmen.

Tempo banning allows Air Force war planners to more accurately identify when a career field is approaching a 1:2 dwell ratio, which may trigger mobilization for Reserve components. If Reserve Airmen are mobilized they will fall into a standard 1:5 tempo-band ratio.

This evolution of the active-duty "will be the new description of the Air and Space Expeditionary Force," said Colonel Erichsen. "If we pull out of the Middle East, ideally everyone will come out of those tempo bands and we'd [all] be in Tempo Band A." But the tempo band structures would remain in place for potential upcoming surges and crisis.

Additional AEF information can be found at the AEF Web site, which is linked from the AFPC "Ask" site, or contact your unit deployment manager or Mr. Ryan at DSN 872-7477.