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A Joint, All-Domain Airman

  • Published
  • By Maj Wes Schultz, USAF


The Future Fight


When then Chief of Staff of the Air Force General CQ Brown said, “we must be prepared to face future conflicts with our joint and combined partners,” he wasn’t making a bold proclamation, but rather stating a fact.[1] But what, then, was Gen Brown highlighting with his comment? The United States Air Force already has the most capable allies and joint partners in history. It is hard to imagine a future battlespace that does not require allies, partners, and our joint services to prevail. It could be argued, then, that one key aspect of the preparation Gen Brown alluded to is for the Air Force to expand its joint planning expertise to meet the challenge of an increasingly complicated fight. With the sunset of the Multi-Domain Warfare Officer (13O) career field, the Air Force requires a framework within which the expertise of former 13Os can be harnessed, and where all Airmen gain the foundational knowledge necessary to integrate with, contribute to, and become effective leaders in the joint force. Modern military competition and conflict necessitate a change in how the Air Force and the rest of the military conduct operations. For such changes to be effective, they will require the Air Force to change its ideas and organizational approaches. A sustained education effort will be necessary to change a culture that has grown accustomed to operations in permissive environments.[2] To support this objective, Headquarters Air Force (HAF) has issued the Joint All Domain Airmen tasking order (TASKORD), directing all levels of the Air Force to learn, train, and employ the Joint Planning Process (JPP) and develop a greater understanding of the Air Force’s role in Joint All Domain Operations (JADO).[3]

Too Little, Too Late?

The need for joint planning acumen is great, but there is a significant delta between that demand signal and existing capacity. The HAF order serves as the enterprise response to close this gap, but, even outside of traditional staff channels, Air Force members are articulating novel ways to remedy the shortfall, including redesigning professional military education. These efforts are essential to augment enterprise-level ones. The goal must be to grow members able “to operate effectively on staff, particularly in the joint environment.” The good news is that “the Air Force already possesses the necessary academic content with respect to Joint Planning.”[4] The challenge is more with when, how, and to whom the material is introduced. This education is relevant to all Airmen, enlisted to officer, Guard, Reserve, and Civilians, at all stages of their careers.

Air University continues to make strides toward a more robust curriculum centered around “jointness,” but those efforts have been conducted without a comprehensive enterprise-wide structure to support the retention of the knowledge gained by members who attend AU courses. Essentially, after members receive their education, they are often not placed into positions where they can consistently put it into practice. Compounding this, members generally receive education on Joint Planning later in their careers, minimizing the available time in which they can gain breadth and depth. The new HAF order directs all levels of PME, from accessions onward, to incorporate joint curriculum to raise the foundational knowledge of all Airmen. It also establishes synchronization between education and training that is focused on joint operations, while charging commanders to adopt a joint mindset in how they and the members they lead conduct day-to-day operations.

A 3-Step Approach

The HAF order establishes three lines of effort (LOEs) to accomplish the objectives described above. The first, Education, begins the process of growing an Airman from the moment they raise their right hand to protect the Constitution of the United States. It introduces foundational components of Joint knowledge that reduce the language barriers for members later in their careers, because, just like learning a foreign language, understanding joint vernacular requires a building block approach. Accessions, like Basic Military Training (BMT) and Officer Training School (OTS), are the perfect places to begin familiarizing Airmen with these concepts. From there, PME forms the backbone of foundational knowledge at different times throughout a career. During these courses, Airmen are given an opportunity to disengage from their core Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) duties and focus on broader professional development competencies. Here, again, is a perfect opportunity for Airmen to not only reaffirm their existing knowledge gained from accessions up to that point in their career but to expand their understanding of those concepts and beyond. As you will see in the next two LOEs, this is essential to completing the task of growing Airmen with joint competency.

The second LOE, Training, is dedicated to developing a high-end, operational planning subject matter expert and equipping Airmen assigned to positions that require some operational planning knowledge with those skills. Former Multi-Domain Warfare Officers (13O), now reclassified into various AFSCs across the Air Force, along with their Enlisted counterparts with Multi-Domain Operations (M-prefix) expertise, are very low-density, high-demand assets. They are graduates of the Command and Control Warrior Advanced Course (C2WAC) provided by the 705th Training Squadron at Hurlburt Field. This training is the capstone for operational planning in the Air Force. Graduates are awarded an A (Officer) or M (Enlisted) prefix to their AFSC. These experts will have a minimum of one utilization tour after graduation from C2WAC. The Air Force will manage them from an enterprise level to ensure their invaluable skill sets are applied effectively throughout their careers. While these high-end planners are critical for some positions and are essential to proper joint integration, there are many other positions that do not require that high-end expertise but still need an increased working knowledge of those skills. Courses like Air Operations Center Initial Qualification Training (AOC IQT) and Lead Wing Command and Control Course (LWC2C) prepare Airmen for the challenges of executing C2 of dispersed forces in a contested environment. Ideally, as these efforts mature, Airmen will arrive at these courses with some understanding of the concepts, shortening the required introductory time and allowing for more focus on the critical skills sections. To realize this, however, more than just education and training will be required.

The third and final LOE, Utilization and Culture, may be the most crucial. As with all skill sets, operational planning is perishable if not consistently used. What an Airman learns at BMT or OTS will fade with time if unused. This holds true for all levels of an Airman’s career. Much like annual leave, it’s “use it, or lose it.” Both aspects of this LOE work to prevent skill erosions. The “Utilization” component requires commanders and staffs to employ Airmen in ways that effectively leverages knowledge and skills gained through formal education and training. This will require more focused management of who fills Unit Manning Document (UMD) billets, but the result will be people more connected to the mission and better aligned to support it. The other half of this LOE, “Culture,” ensures a holistic approach to rounding out how Airmen approach day-to-day operations.

Consistently using the JPP within units ensures that Airmen of all backgrounds can interoperate better whether in steady state, exercise, or contingency operations in support of JADO. Enlisted Airmen, in particular, will be called on more than ever to aid planning efforts and must fully understand Mission Type Orders (MTOs), Commander’s Intent, and other areas supported by JPP. If they are not fully versed in the process, operations across all warfighting domains will suffer.

Now is the Time

While some may view the new HAF guidance as an extra “thing” they will have to do in an already busy schedule, there is an enormous benefit to speaking a common language, operating from within the same planning framework, and being able to count on a baseline of foundational knowledge. As other services use the JPP to a greater extent than the Air Force, we must improve in this area. Otherwise, we risk not developing credible joint leaders from the USAF and being left out of the most important conversations, those that drive operations and underpin whether we win or lose in conflict. The United States Air Force is the most competent, credible, and capable Air Force the world has ever known. What we bring to the fight goes well beyond just aircraft. All Airmen, regardless of rank or position, should be able to articulate that message to the rest of the military, our allies and partners, and their friends, family, and neighbors. Empowering them with baseline knowledge on how to plan and execute successful operations and giving them a clearer picture of how and where the airpower fits into Joint and Combined operations is a significant part of realizing that objective. The Joint All Domain Airmen TASKORD is an important and necessary step in that direction.  


Maj Wesley M. Schultz
Maj Schultz is the Command and Control Branch Chief for the Command and Control, Integrated Air and Missile Defense Office at Headquarters Air Force. He is a Senior Air Battle Manager with 918 Combat Hours in an E-3 AWACS and is a graduate of the College of Naval Command and Staff in Newport, RI.[5]



[1.] Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs, “Air Force to phase out 13O career field, strengthen all Airmen joint capabilities,” 17 February 2022.

[2.] Dr. Sandeep Mulgund, “Evolving the Command and Control of Airpower,” Wild Blue Yonder, 21 April 2021.

[3.] U.S. Department of the Air Force, The Department of the Air Force Role in Joint All-Domain Operations, AFDP 3-99  (Maxwell AFB: LeMay Doctrine Center, 19 Nov 2021).

[4.] Major William Piepenbring, “Education is the Premise to Progress,” Wild Blue Yonder, June 8, 2023.

[5.] The author would like to thank the following individuals for their time and expertise in contributing to and reviewing this article: Dr. Sandeep Mulgund, Col Jason Idleman, Lt Col Joseph Witherspoon, CMSgt Dusty Fredrikson, and SMSgt Jeffrey Roark.


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