U.S. Air Force Command Chiefs Advocate Strategic Evolution Amidst Great Power Competition

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Austin Harvill
  • 163d Attack Wing

In the crucible of military service, the essence of a warrior is distilled into a simple yet profound question: Why do you serve? For some, it's a matter of necessity, a duty begrudgingly undertaken. Others, more astute, recognize their role as defenders against looming threats. But it's the exceptional few who grasp the intricacies of their mission, who understand that they are the guardians of a nation's values and security, wielding a precise skillset to bolster their team's efforts on the global stage.

This phenomenal force must be synonymous with the U.S. Air Force if we’re to win the fight of tomorrow, according to Command Chief Master Sgt. Maurice Williams, command chief, Air National Guard.

“You can’t go anywhere in the Pentagon without hearing the term great power competition, or GPC, in every conversation,” he said during his visit to March Air Reserve Base, “We are in a Great Power Competition, and we must win.”

According to the Department of Defense, the GPC is in play “when large nations vie for the greatest power and influence – not just in their own parts of the world, but also farther out. During his visit, the command chief expressed how every Airmen must be aware of the GPC to truly understand the importance of their individual mission sets.

“The strategic IQ of the force is more important than ever,” he said. “When someone asks ‘Why do we care about Taiwan on the other side of the world?’ All of you should have that answer, all of you should understand what’s at stake.”

The chief explained that large changes are coming to the Air Force on the whole. During this year’s AFA Warfare Symposium on Feb. 12 Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall will discuss these fundamental changes to the force. Given Kendall’s AFA keynote address, the command chief implored Airmen to embrace new changes.

“We need to re-optimize our force towards our current adversaries,” he explained. “The advancement of small teams and multi-capable Airmen is that effort.”

The MCA concept is not new, but the detailed instruction or the force towards an MCA mindset is fresh off the presses. Williams shared why the force is migrating to this operational philosophy.

“What we’ve seen in Ukraine and across the world is the power behind small teams generating mission efficacy,” he explained. “Whether it is maintenance, medical, or any warfighter, our ability to generate air power – to produce sorties – anywhere at any time will be the determining factor of air superiority in peer-to-peer warfighting.”

The 163d Attack Wing has continuously proved its ability to not only embrace this philosophy, but also exemplify it, according to the 163d Attack Wing Command Chief, Command Chief Master Sgt. Ryan Williams.

“What we did during Balikatan 2023, what we’re doing with [Rapid Airfield Damage Recovery], all of this proves why the MCA concept is critical, and why we’re at the tip of that spear,” he said.

Finally, the 163d command chief explained how the lessons learned in wars abroad directly correlate to 163d mission generation.

“The push for innovation, for instance, is not to look for improvement for the sake of improvement,” he said. “We innovate, we change our training, and we adjust our operations because we know adaptation is imperative, and our culture of innovation, of change, is paramount to our success in today’s warfight.”

In the ever-changing combat environment, both command chiefs see the value of MCA, strategic IQ, and the ongoing pressure of the great power competition. So long as they, and all leaders at all levels, continue to see that value, the Air Force as a phenomenal military force is no longer a goal, but a guarantee.