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Doctrine summit focuses on lessons learned

11/21/2003 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Doctrine Summit IV gave Air Force leaders the chance to discuss lessons learned from recent and on-going operations and to assess practices for better educating, organizing, training and equipping the service to fight the next fight.

The summit was held Nov. 17 and 18 at the Air Force Doctrine Center's Air Force Wargaming Institute here.

Maj. Gen. David F. MacGhee Jr., Air Force Doctrine Center commander, leads the organization that is tasked with collecting data from operational situations and subject-matter experts in the field. The organization then creates a doctrine that outlines how the Air Force fits in with the other services in joint operations and with coalition partners and alliances.

Doctrine provides answers to important questions concerning "the most complex human endeavor there is -- war," MacGhee said.

MacGhee said that doctrine also answers key questions for airmen, such as, "What is my mission and how should it be approached? What should my organization look like and why? What are my lines of authority within my organization and within the joint force? What degree of control do I have over my forces? And finally, how am I supported and who do I call if I need more support?"

In the months preceding a doctrine summit, the center's staff polls major combat commanders, the Air Force chief of staff and the secretary of the Air Force to determine what they believe are the most significant warfighting and doctrine issues. Most of the hard data for this summit came from Task Force Enduring Look, an organization tasked to collect facts and data from current operations, in this case operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. From there, the potential list of topics is pared down to the top five to seven issues for discussion at the summit.

"The doctrine summit is designed so that it is a decision brief and not an information brief," MacGhee said. "I think we've made tremendous progress because we took the lessons learned during OEF and applied them for OIF. I think we all agree that the combat operations phase of OIF was a success."

MacGhee stressed how important it is to take those lessons to heart.

"Life is tough, but it's tougher if you're stupid," he said. "We laugh when we say that, but what it really means is that when lessons are not learned our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen are subject to increased risk in combat. It's very important that we not just observe lessons, but that we actually learn them."

Near a summit's conclusion, the group revisits the topics and confirms with the secretary and chief of staff what the resulting task list looks like. Recommendations can include such things as re-equipping a weapon system for expanded mission capability, better integrating certain systems or concepts, or tailoring professional military education and training to correct some deficiency.

Although recent events have drastically changed Air Force doctrine, certain principles retain value, MacGhee said.

"There are some underlying principles that have enduring qualities," MacGhee said. "These are unity of command leads to unity of effort, and centralized control and decentralized execution are important to the way the Air Force fights and wins the nation's wars."

The ultimate goal is to provide the joint-force commander the best-trained, best-organized and most combat-effective air and space force, MacGhee said.

"I like to remind everybody that doctrine is about what is important, not about being important," he said. "It's about how you organize to be most effective, not about specific organizations. It's about using the medium of air and space effectively, not about owning that medium. Doctrine is about protecting our nation's treasure, not about a specific service being a national treasure."