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What exactly is an 'A' staff anyway?

BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, D.C. -- The November announcement that the Air Force District of Washington was being reactivated at Bolling has brought many new challenges and questions. Timely exchange of information has helped answer some of them.

With the release of the initial AFDW staff structure, the big question has centered on what the A-staff designators, the letter "A" followed by a number, mean.

The A-staff designators are really not new to those who have served in a joint military environment or within a combatant command headquarters. Air Force Doctrine Document 2, Organization and Employment of Aerospace Power, describes the A-staff as "a staff structure used instead of the more 'traditional' Air Force staff designations (i.e., DO, LG, SC, etc.) to more readily identify the Air Force component staff equivalents of the corresponding J-staff functions."

Ok, now that we are on joint operations and staffs, what's that mean? Some may recall The BEAM articles on the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region that became operational last year. Just as the name implies, this is a joint military organization consisting of: U.S. Army Military District of Washington, Naval District of Washington, Marine Corps National Capital Region Command, AFDW and the U.S. Coast Guard. This is the precise reason for the reactivation of AFDW, to provide a single point of command and control and a single voice for all Air Force support in the NCR's joint environment.

While not common at Bolling, the need to operate in a joint military environment has been recognized since Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The necessity of having common command structures, specific functions and offices is recognized by all branches of military service. A-staff designators correspond with joint or J-staff designators. For example, the directorate of operations under AFDW, A-3 ("A" for Air Force and 3 for operations), corresponds with the directorate of operations for JFHQ NCR, J-3.

There are six primary designators, which are based on specific functions, recognized in the joint arena: 1 (manpower and personnel), 2 (intelligence), 3 (operations), 4 (logistics), 5 (plans), and 6 (communications and information).

AFDW has tailored this staff structure with three additional functions: A-7 (installation and mission support), A-8 (comptroller), and A-9 (lessons learned).

For those who don't take change well, rest assured the current guidance for Air Force wing structure, Air Force Instruction 38-101, Air Force Organization, still maintains the same structure of flights, squadrons and groups used within the 11th Wing. Remember, as with all changes, the new will become routine as time passes.