You are on page 1of 6

USAF Organizational Structure

Lesson Objective: Understand the organizational structure of the
United States Air Force (USAF).
When you have completed this lesson, you should be able to:
Outline the organizational structure of the USAF.
List the USAF Major Commands (MAJCOMS) to include the location of
their respective headquarters.
Outline the organizational structure of the USAF MAJCOMs and
describe their primary missions.
Describe the basic structure of an USAF wing.

The United States Air Force (USAF) is the air and space branch of the
United States military. The USAF was formed as a separate branch on
September 18, 1947 from the United States Army Air Corps. The USAF is
the world's largest modern air force, with over 9,000 aircraft in service and
about 350,000 men and women on active duty.
Since the First World War, the USAF and its predecessors have
participated in military conflicts throughout the world. The USAF is widely
considered to be the most technologically advanced military air power. The
Air Force is currently undergoing a massive Reduction-in-Force (RIF) due
to budget constraints. Personnel strength will be reduced by nearly 57,000
active duty, Reserve, Air National Guard, and civilian personnel over the
next 5 years.
The National Security Act of 1947 created the Air Force separate from the

"In general the United States Air Force shall include aviation forces, both combat
and service not otherwise assigned. It shall be organized, trained, and equipped
primarily for prompt and sustained offensive and defensive air operations. The Air
Force shall be responsible for the preparation of the air forces necessary for the
effective prosecution of war except as otherwise assigned and, in accordance
with integrated joint mobilization plans, for the expansion of the peacetime
components of the Air Force to meet the needs of war."
The Air Force mission today is to "deliver sovereign options for the defense of
the United States of America and its global interests - to fly and fight in Air,
Space, and Cyberspace."

Air Force Command Structure

Although there are many exceptions, the Air Force Command Structure is
built on a single orderly chain of command with the Wing as the basic
operational functional unit. There is usually one wing per base, although
there are usually also other tenant units not directly under the base wing's
chain of command. Having a basic understanding of the chain of
command is the most important thing a new officer can do. As an example,
let's look at the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa Air Base, Japan.
The 35th Wing's primary mission is to provide suppression of enemy air
defenses (historically called the Wild Weasel Mission since Vietnam) using
the F-16 CJ. The Wing Commander is a Brigadier General (one-star), and
has four Colonel Group Commanders: 35th Operations Group (airplanes
and pilots), 35th Maintenance (airplane fixers), 35th Medical Group (a
small community hospital with surgery and OB), and the 35th Support
Group (everything else).
Within each Group is a collection of squadrons which are the heart of the
functional units that complete the mission. The 35th Operations Group has
two fighter squadrons and an Operational Support Squadron which has
direct mission support functions such as Air Traffic Control. The Medical
Group has an Aerospace Medicine Squadron, Medical Operations
Squadron, Medical Support Squadron and a Dental Squadron.

While you will come to know the medical and operations groups the most,
it is important to understand the others, especially the Support Group. The
Support Group owns the Security Forces, Fire Response and the Civil
Engineers among many others (e.g. Pay and Finance). A good relationship
with folks in the Support Group will go a long way towards getting things
done in support of the mission.
Within each squadron there are smaller flights which compose the 'frontline' of the group's mission. In the Operations Group, the fighter squadrons
will have flights of several pilots and others to form a cohesive unit, relying
on each other to achieve the mission.
In addition to the 35th Wing at Misawa, there is also a large tenant Group a naval aviation reconnaissance and Anti-Submarine war detachment of P3's and an entire maintenance facility. The Naval Commander coordinates
with the AF Wing Commander to work out mutual issues.

Higher Headquarters
Several wings come together and make what is called a "Numbered Air
Force" (NAF). Again, each has its own mission. These major air forces
then report to a Major Command (MAJCOM), such as the United States
Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), Air Combat Command (ACC), Pacific Air
Forces (PACAF), Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC), etc. As example, the
35th Wing Commander reports to the 5th Air Force Commander (usually a
two-star General) in Japan, where the 5th Air Force is the responsible air
power protection in that part of the world. The 5th Air Force Commander
reports the the PACAF commander, an Air Force 4-star general, who then
reports to the PACOM commander, a Joint position. The United States
Pacific Command (PACOM) Commander is responsible for ALL US
forces ("Joint" Forces) in the Pacific Area of Operations.
It is important to understand that the Misawa Hospital Commander, like all
Air Force Medical Group Commanders, does not work for the PACAF
Surgeon General. The Misawa Group commanders all report to their wing
commander. The MAJCOM (in this case, PACAF) Command Surgeon
General and his staff act in advisory capacity only, but the advise the
Command 4 star.
Table lists the 9 USAF MAJCOMS and Air National Gaurd (ANG) Rollover the links below for details.
Air Combat Command (ACC)
Langley AFB, VA
Air Education and Training
Command (AETC) Randolph

Primary provider of air combat forces to

America's war fighting commanders.
ACC Link
Develop America's Airmen today... for
tomorrow by delivering unrivaled air and
space education and training.

Air Force Material Command

Conducts research, development, test
(AFMC) Wright Patterson AFB, and evaluation, and provides
acquisition management services and
logistics support necessary to keep Air
Force weapon systems ready for war.
Air Force Reserve Command
Provide citizen airmen to defend the
(AFRC) Robins AFB, GA
United States and protect its interests
through air and space power, provides
20 percent of USAF capability over a
broad range of platforms and does two
DoD-unique missions in fixed-wing
aerial spray missions and hurricane
Air Force Space Command
Defends North America through its
(AFSPC) Peterson AFB, CO
space and intercontinental ballistic
missile operations, vital force elements
in projecting global reach and global
Air Force Special Operations
Provides Air Force special operations
Command (AFSOC) Hurlburt
forces for worldwide deployment and
Field, FL
assignment to regional unified
commands; core tasks have been
grouped into four mission areas:
forward presence and engagement,
information operations precision
employment and strike, and special
operations forces mobility.
Air Mobility Command (AMC) Rapid, global mobility and sustainment
Scott AFB, IL
for America's armed forces. The
command also plays a crucial role in
providing humanitarian support at home
and around the world.
AMC Link
Air National Guard (ANG) The ANG is administered by the
Andrews AFB, DC
National Guard Bureau (not a USAF
MAJCOM), is one of the seven reserve
components of the US armed forces
that augment the active components,
has both a federal and state mission,
and provides almost half of the Air
Force's tactical airlift support, combat

communications functions, aeromedical

evacuations and aerial refueling.
ANG Link
Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Provide ready air and space power to
Hickam AFB, HI
promote U.S. interests in the AsiaPacific region during peacetime,
through crisis and in war.
United States Air Forces in
Support of national and NATO
Europe (USAFE) - Ramstein AB, requirements; ready to perform close air
support, air interdiction, air defense, inflight refueling, long-range transport and
support of maritime operations.

The main function of MAJCOM is to serve the line by organizing, training

and equipping; this mostly distills out to money flow. For most flight
surgeon offices, their main go-to person at the MAJCOM level will be with
the MAJCOM SGP (Chief of Aeromedical Services). The main point of
interaction for most "in-the-trenches" flight surgeons will be the MAJCOM
SGP or SGPA (Chief of Aeromedical Standards) on matters regarding
flying class waivers.
In our Misawa example, being part of PACAF, most waivers are
coordinated through the PACAF SGP office at Hickam Air Base. Also,
more difficult issues such as aircraft mishaps or manning are handled
between the base and MAJCOM. Rarely will Flight Surgeons deal directly

with levels above MAJCOM (e.g. Airstaff level waivers), and in those
cases, it is best left to the base SGP.
The graphic to the right shows the complete National Command Authority
(NCA) for a young Medical Group Assigned Flight Surgeon at Misawa. You
may notice the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) and the Air
Force Chief of Staff do not appear in the direct chain of command. Much
like the Command Surgeon, the CJCS sits as an advisor to the Secretary
of Defense.
At the heart of Air Force culture are the core values, and every AF member
should know the value and their meaning:
Integrity First.
Service Before Self.
Excellence In All We Do
You have completed this lesson. You should now be able to:
Outline the organizational structure of the USAF.
List the USAF MAJCOMS to include the location of their respective
Outline the organizational structure of the USAF MAJCOMs and
describe their primary missions.
Describe the basic structure of an USAF wing.