Fusion cell shapes wing deliberate planning processes

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Ian Phillips, 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
  • 920th Rescue Wing

While most Air Force wings have a plans and program office for long-term planning the 920th Rescue Wing has enhanced its planning abilities by creating a fusion cell designed to implement exercises based on deliberate, joint planning that modernizes the wing’s agile combat readiness for missions around the world.

The cell consists of two Airmen doing the work of an entire plans shop. Their main effort is to implement guidance on agile combat employment (ACE), provide mission-type orders, and integrate the joint deliberate planning process into the wing’s exercise program.

The difference between a standard wing plans and programs office and the fusion cell is their focus on teaching military decision making processes and deliberate planning that generally isn’t done in Air Force plans offices. The joint focus develops leaders in operations and sustainment areas and challenges them with responsibilities as an operational planning team leader for exercises.

“The wing is working to empower junior ranking officers and enlisted Airmen to make mission-critical decisions based on the commander's mission statement and intent. We do this by issuing a mission order with a desired endstate and how we think the mission will be conducted and then inject problems for leaders to solve during execution while withholding any further headquarters guidance,” said Lt. Col. John Lowe, Fusion Cell chief.

Developing these skills allow the wing to continue missions to the desired end state even in the absence of higher headquarters guidance once an operation has commenced.  This allows more flexibility and helps the wing align with the ACE construct and Air Force Reserve Command training guidance.

Historically squadrons set up their own exercise participation but now the fusion cell is now the single point of contact for wing exercise participation. It helps with distribution of resources and funds for participation in exercises while informing leadership of operational and sustainment challenges.

The cell is the single point of contact for the wing in both internal and external exercise participation. This includes managing involvement in major command, component, and combatant command exercises around the world.

This facilitation allowed the wing to develop the new personnel recovery task force, which is a new Air Force rescue presentation model. They developed this with exercises and implementation of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) for Indo-Pacific personnel recovery using large-scale rescue forces through the wing’s DISTANT and FURY HORIZON series of exercises run through the cell. The HORIZON series of wing exercises are held throughout the year at group and wing levels. They bring together the combined arms power of the entire wing to focus tactics on executing their mission anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.

“We are introducing a common language to the wing so that everyone is on the same page during the planning process,” said Master Sgt. Ricardo de la Cruz, Jr., Fusion Cell superintendent.

This common language provides guidance based on commander’s intent for exercise participation, TTP development, and operational planning and mission execution that directly impacts real-world mission capabilities.

“At times they are diplomats coordinating foreign and domestic training, often they are coaches honing the deliberate planning process among unit leaders, and every day they are advisors to the commanders on risk. Their exercises remove myths about the potential of our Airmen and provide a realistic portrayal derived from continual study of what happens in war,” said Col. John Dobbin, 920th RQW commander.

While the mission of the 920 RQW is to plan, lead, and conduct military rescue operations to deny competitors and adversaries exploitation of isolated personnel, the wing’s modernization of combat applications builds the capability and capacity of the organization and reminds competitors it poses a formidable threat in isolated or contested environments around the world.