Commentary: 2024: The year of competition!

  • Published
  • By Col. Abby Ruscetta
  • 72nd Air Base Wing

(Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of commentaries laying out the priorities of the 72nd Air Base Wing Commander.)

“…Are we as ready as we could be?”

This is a portion of a question posed by Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall, in a memo to the force last fall titled, One Team One Fight. The full question read “If asked to go to war today against a peer competitor, are we as ready as we could be?”

This question has been on my mind since the moment I read it. We are in a world of great power competition, with multi theater war and global deterrence. Being ready for competition means training to win.

So, Wildcatters, are we as ready as we could be?

As the commander of the 72nd Air Base Wing, I would say the answer to our question is, we are ready…the Wildcatters are a ready force, but implementing new training strategies will ensure we are more ready tomorrow than we are today.

This question was a driving force behind our 72nd ABW Priority 4: Posture to Win. This involves readiness, deliberate training, and further establishing a culture built on Mission Command and Warrior Ethos. This Year of Competition is dedicated to training to win – to mentally and physically prepare ourselves and our teammates for competition against a peer competitor, should the need arise.

Many of you know the Air Force transitioned to the Air Force Force Generation model. AFFORGEN is how the Air Force presents our forces to the combatant commands to quantify capacity, risk, and readiness. Our military members will be assigned to a six-month phase and will proceed through the 24-month cycle: Prepare Phase, Certify Phase, Available to deploy Phase, and Reset Phase.

The Wildcatters changed how we train for competition within the construct of the AFFORGEN model. Our monthly Wildcatter Readiness Training Days will focus on specific ‘Ready Airman Training’ tasks and ensure each of you will have enough reps and sets to be ready for competition. This modification establishes a more structured and predictable cycle to better prepare our Airmen for distributed, high-end combat operations by allowing focused time for individual and unit training and certification. Therefore, when an Airman is certified ‘ready’, that Airman is truly available to deploy at any point in their six-month availability phase.

This year we will also focus on Multi-Capable Airman training and instilling a warrior ethos mindset. Advanced training for specific career specialties will prepare our Wildcatters for AFFORGEN deployments in support of Agile Combat Employment operations. Smaller, more agile, capable forces – lethality at its core.

Warrior Ethos is the embodiment of the warrior spirit: tough mindedness, tireless motivation, an unceasing vigilance, a willingness to sacrifice one's life for the country, if necessary, and a commitment to be the world's premier Air, Space and Cyberspace force. A Warrior Ethos mindset is critical to change and foundational to our Air Force culture. We teach it, we learn it, we live it, but staying immersed in it is necessary.

Our Year of Competition will also focus on the drive to Mission Command Culture. This is a philosophy of leadership that empowers Airmen to operate in uncertain, complex, and rapidly changing environments through trust, shared awareness, and understanding of commander’s intent.

As outlined in Air Force Doctrine Publication 1-1, Mission Command describes command and control built on centralized command, distributed operation, and decentralized execution by trusted, competent, and properly resourced commanders. The Mission Command culture is imperative in order to better prepare you for competition.

To think about what is ahead of you in this Year of Competition is very exciting. Think of the possibilities for each of you as an Airman, both for you professionally but also for your teammates.

The Year of Competition will make each of you better, more agile, quicker thinking warriors. It is a mindset change. It is essential we are as ready as we can be.

As always, it is a privilege to serve alongside you as we get after this Year of Competition together. I’m humbled and proud to serve as your commander and your teammate.