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Total Force Fight: AFKOR holds 6 acces in his hand, Marine Corps benefits

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- It's hard to imagine an enemy betting against more than 170 years of experience in applying combat airpower. But this is exactly what would happen to an aggressor in the airspace over the Korean peninsula in time of war. 

During the current Key Resolve exercise, Lt. Gen. Stephen Wood, Air Forces Korea, Korea Air Component Command commander, has six senior Air Force officers spread out over the peninsula working directly with other component commanders to ensure the overall air objective is accomplished. Military doctrine says our forces fight in a joint environment, with each Service adding its capability to create a fighting force, with a more devastating effect than what the individual Services are capable of providing. 

Known as Air Component Coordination Elements or "ACCEs," the Air Reserve Component officers bring a breadth and depth of knowledge hard to find among active-duty officers and allow the ACC commander to deal from a stacked deck. 

"The goal (of this effort) is to create liaison officers who understand how I think, how the Air Operations Center works, and can then help us communicate with the other component commands to execute our combat mission more efficiently," General Wood said. "ACCEs help develop trust and confidence in Air Force capabilities and decision making with the Army, Navy and Marine Corps." 

The general, who began the program on the peninsula in 2007, said the initiative was born from lessons learned in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, where Air Operations Centers had similar liaisons working with component commands. 

Brig. Gen. Craig Gourley, who serves as an Air Force liaison to the Marine Component Commander during this exercise, is a command pilot with more than 4,500 flight hours and 30 years of service. He said his experiences in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan provide him with a thorough understanding of the issues and limitations associated with the best use of airpower assets. 

"This experience has helped me in discussions with our Marine Component to enable the maximum, correct and timely use of Air Force assets," General Gourley said. The general pointed out that when Marines assault a beachhead, they use Marine Corps air, land and sea assets and control the airspace above their area of operation.
"The Marines are excellent in the control and execution of this assault," he said. "Therefore, our Air Force duties and responsibilities focus primarily on airspace allocation issues and airpower requests." 

Trust and confidence built over time is key to the success of an ACCE, according to Brig. Gen. Frank Anderson, who also serves as a liaison to the Marine Component Commander. 

"Being an expert in all facets of airpower employment and capabilities gives me great credibility with the component commanders and staff," said the command pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours and 30 years experience. "Having worked closely with the Marine Corps both in the field and on various acquisition efforts had given me a good appreciation for their needs and how they prefer to operate." 

The general said there are numerous examples of when airpower can come to the aid of a ground force. He said when a ground force runs into stiff resistance and the momentum is slowed or temporarily stopped, a timely flow of massive airpower may dislodge or disrupt the enemy and allow friendly forces to retake the initiative and minimize friendly casualties. 

General Wood said the end result of the initiative is that ACCEs will be able to provide direct feedback to their component commander in near real time, almost as if he were there. 

Other Air Force ACCEs are:
- Brig. Gen. Richard Shook Jr. and Air Force Brig. Gen. Jon Shasteen, liaisons to the Ground Component Commander
- Brig. Gen. (S) Richard Haddad, liaison to the Combined Unconventional Warfare Task Force Commander
- Col. Pete McCaffrey, liaison to the Naval Component Commander.