AMC 'shot clock' marks countdown to close out Mobility Guardian lessons learned

  • Published
  • By Maj. Beau Downey
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

In the commander’s office at Air Mobility Command headquarters, there is clock hung on the wall. It’s easy to miss when you first walk in the room because it’s off to the side, in sight of the desk and framed between chairs where the commander sits and meets with staff and guests. In bold red numbers, it counts down, ticking away the seconds and creating a palpable and unrelenting sense of urgency on its way to zero.

The clock has been in place for much of Gen. Mike Minihan’s tenure as commander, having originally been installed to pace the command for the start of Exercise Mobility Guardian 2023, the Air Force’s premier multinational mobility exercise. Next, the clock counted down to June 30 -- the deadline Minihan set for the command to close out priority initiatives from the exercise.

“Bottom line here is we are driving a headquarters to action that can handle continued support for global operations and still make good on the investment from Mobility Guardian to benefit the joint force,” Minihan said.

Last year saw the largest iteration of Mobility Guardian ever, marking the first time it was focused on and conducted in the Indo-Pacific. Thousands of participants across millions of square miles of ocean and terrain validated previously identified gaps and explored new tactics, techniques, and procedures -- all within a realistic environment that forced joint participants to face the realities of contested logistics. Speaking during a September 2023 interview with Air and Space Forces Magazine about how the exercise was designed, Minihan said, “We just let the real world be the real world.”

The capstone event answered key questions: Can the Mobility Air Force proactively respond to the environment to shape it for unfair advantage? Can it overcome siloed missions and roles? And perhaps most fundamentally, can it explode into theater with the mass, tempo, and sustainment needed to enable the joint force to win?

The answers to these questions aren’t rhetorical. They played out during real-world events, and the remaining work to be done existed in a 10-line list of priorities AMC was tracking to build “irreversible momentum” toward the next iteration of the exercise and beyond.

Each effort reflected key lessons learned that broadly fit into four major categories: data, decisions, development and discipline. Getting to the right solutions for each item can require adjusting current procedures, leveraging existing technologies, or if needed, developing entirely new capabilities.

“The 10-line was the main effort at AMC since August 2023, ensuring that we put real effort behind changing lessons observed in Mobility Guardian to lessons learned,” said Brig Gen Corey Simmons, AMC Director of Strategy, Plans, Requirements, and Programs and the general officer mentor for several lines of effort. “It is amazing how much can get done when the entire staff gets behind specific and defined tasks and make the main thing the main thing.”

This is what the clock counted down to: taking the list from 10 to zero -- either by completion or by moving the initiative into a normal state of governance within the command staff.

One of the top priorities on the list was focusing on improving command relationships -- the interrelated responsibilities between commanders. As the MAF balances high global operational demand with future planning requirements, the ability to comfortably navigate relationships while supporting force generation models across the services at the speed of relevance is critical.

“I don’t think it’s asking too much that our Airmen know who they are working for and what their priorities are,” Minihan said.

Another major, and decidedly urgent priority is something the command is calling “25 by 25,” which is a goal to deliver robust connectivity capabilities to at least a quarter of the fleet by 2025 to kickstart connectivity ahead of the traditional budgeting cycle.

“Our force requires connectivity, survivability, and agility,” said Minihan in his Beyond the Manifesto. To his Headquarters staff he continued, “Close those gaps so that we can meet the tempo and mass of combat.”

As the clock approached zero, Mobility Airmen were crossing items off the list and translating lessons learned into real-world effects. They were getting what Minihan calls “sets and reps” with mission-type orders and leaning in on navigating command relationships to develop “trust between the cockpit and the headquarters.”

The recent iteration of Exercise Valiant Shield, another Indo-Pacific event, saw MAF participants demonstrate maximum endurance operations and specialized fueling operations that showcase versatility to maneuver the joint force.

“This is three years of effort with enormous joint equities at stake,” Minihan said prior to the clock expiring. “We are investing in culture, and when this countdown hits zero, we will have marked the next step on a long journey toward solidifying a warfighter’s mindset that leverages mobility and maneuver for lethality.”