Off and Running

Airmen of the newly activated 17th Air Force, headquartered at Ramstein AB, Germany, have continued supporting aerial missions in Africa even as they have been fashioning the new numbered air force during its first 30 days of operational activity. One of their first jobs was to create an organizational structure, namely the 404th Air Expeditionary Group, to employ aircraft and crews deployed to the NAF. “The mission of the 404th is simple—provide dedicated intratheather airlift in support of US Africa Command taskings,” explained Col. Bob Holba, the 404th AEG’s first commander. So far, though, the 404th has no staff so has been “leveraging great support,” said Holba, from 17th AF—itself still building to a planned 400-strong headquarters—and US Air Forces in Europe, 3rd Air Force, host wings at Ramstein, and the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock AFB, Ark., which deployed two C-130s to the 404th AEG. The fledgling 17th AF staff also has coordinated more than 30 theater security cooperation events for Fiscal 2009, events Maj. Gen. Ronald Ladnier, 17th AF commander, describes as providing the “hands-on training and personal interaction” needed to help Africans build “sustainable air safety and security” capabilities. He said that the NAF is “continuing to march toward full operational capability this time next year, but noted that already 17th AF airmen are “beginning to make a difference on the continent, and that is our ultimate objective.” There are no plans to shift 17th AF of the new US Africa Command to Africa, but AFRICOM commander, Army Gen. William Ward said last month AFRICOM would seek to establish new cooperative security locations. (17th AF report by MSgt. Jim Fisher)