Air Forces Africa Takes Flight

Less than two months after beginning initial operations, 17th Air Force (Air Forces Africa) has yet to secure its full staff but already is ramping up its daily sorties to the African continent, says Maj. Gen. Ronald Ladnier, head of the new organization. The numbered air force has a lot of work cut out for it to meet the goal of being fully operational less than one year from now, Ladnier said during a Nov. 16 interview in his office at 17th AF headquarters on the grounds of Ramstein AB, Germany. “We’re trying to bring in the right folks that have experience,” he said, noting that 17th AF is adding a wide range of personnel from communications and intelligence specialists, logisticians and refuelers, to operators of airlift and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance platforms. The operational picture is slowly taking shape with the stand up of the 404th Air Expeditionary Group and its subordinate, the 42nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, which is AFAFRICA’s first expeditionary squadron. Currently, two C-130Hs from the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock AFB, Ark., along with their aircrews and support personnel, are deployed to Ramstein to fly Africa missions under the 42nd EAS. These missions frequently run over three to four days down and back. They include cargo and supply runs, delivery of small arms, and the rotation of forces for activities such as medical missions and security training with African partners. Ladnier said, on any given day now, 17th AF has small teams of airmen conducting six to eight security cooperation activities across the vast continent. In addition to airlift, demands on AFAFRICA for ISR are especially heavy, Ladnier said and explained, “We need to know about where refugees are [and] where flooding and natural disasters are taking place as well as keeping track of enemy forces.”