by Master Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher
18th Air Force Public Affairs
12/8/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Running
the Air Force's global mobility enterprise day-to-day is a huge
undertaking to begin with, so when a crisis strikes that requires a
large mobility effort, Air Mobility Command and 18th Air Force need a
tool that lets them focus on that crisis.
The Crisis Battle Staff is a collection of experts drawn from across AMC
and 18th AF that activates on a round-the-clock basis to address a
"The crisis in question can be of any nature from response to a natural
disaster to nuclear war," said Maj. Daniel Ortwerth, CBS manager. "The
staff includes representatives from every directorate or special staff
agency. It focuses only on the crisis, and its sole purpose is to assist
the commander with his decision-making process and issuance of
well-crafted orders to set Mobility Air Force assets into motion in
response to the crisis."
The CBS is an integral part of how AMC and 18th Air Force respond to
crises. Mark Johnson, 18th Air Force CBS manager, said the CBS provides
four main functions: information management, battle rhythm management,
joint operational-level planning and external communications.
"The CBS is the focal point for all operations during a contingency,"
Johnson explained. "Every organization has unique functions and roles
that contribute to the operational mission. Crisis, contingency,
exercise, and wartime operations require increased attention and timely
response to support the commander's decision cycle."
For the most part, the CBS's role doesn't change from incident to
incident, Orthwerth said. Whether the scenario is a hurricane or a war,
the functions and processes remain the same.
"The core processes and methods of the CBS bend and flex as necessary to
properly address the subject matter at hand," Ortwerth said.
A good example of this ability to flex, Ortwerth said, was when the CBS
was activated to handle two simultaneous events in 2014; the beginning
of a large-scale homeland defense exercise and the start of Operation
Unified Assistance, the U.S. response to the ebola epidemic in West
"The CBS was scheduled to activate for the exercise on a Monday,"
Ortwerth said. "However, with no notice, it was ordered into activation
the previous Wednesday for Operation United Assistance. Not only was
the activation a surprise, but the two subjects could not have been more
Ortwerth said that despite the challenges the scenarios presented, the CBS adjusted to meet the needs of both operations.
"With the help of the CBS Managers, the freshly activated CBS members
gathered the information available, used whatever means proved
effective, assigned specialists to different aspects of the dual
challenge, and got the essential information flowing to two sets of
commanders," he said. "We set up two separate but coordinated battle
rhythms, with their own briefing types and locations, and made it
Johnson said the CBS has to be ready to respond to any contingency on a moment's notice.
"The CBS spends the majority of the time in a warm status which
constitutes initial and continuous training, information management, and
regular equipment checks and upgrades to insure readiness in
preparation for activation," Johnson said. "The design of the team is to
be fully functional within an hour after a recall to support the 18th
AF commander's effort to provide guidance and orders to the Mobility Air
Because it can be called into action so quickly, Ortwerth said it's
important to exercise the CBS and those who work in it regularly.
"CBS duty is entirely outside the bounds of the normal jobs and
processes of the people who serve on it," Ortwerth explained. "We are
pulling these people away from their day jobs and throwing them into a
set of duties for which they've received training, but just basic
training. At the same time, we are making them perform in a crisis,
which adds pressure and criticality to the situation. We don't want CBS
members to be learning on the job. CBS exercises enable them to make
the valuable mistakes that facilitate learning in a training environment
- the way it is supposed to work. That's why we train for any job, but
this one in particular simply cannot afford to be treated lightly."
Col. Constance Jenkins, AMC Reserve Advisor to the Director of
Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, had never worked in the CBS
before reporting as its dayshift director during a recent homeland
defense exercise. She said she was impressed by how everything worked.
"It was humbling and inspiring to watch the dedication and efforts put
forth by so many people to make the mission a success," she said. "It
was an incredible learning experience for me."
One of the things Jenkins learned was the key to the CBS's success.
"The strength of the CBS during a crisis lies in the matrixed staff,"
Jenkins said. "The leveraging of subject matter experts in the matrixed
staff affords utilizations of depth and breadth of knowledge that is
unmatched in a smaller group of people. This reach-back for subject
matter expertise into every directorate in AMC allows leadership to make
judicious, timely data-rich decisions."
Jenkins said at the end of the day, it's the people that make the biggest difference.
"Having a strong cadre of subject matter experts creates a situation
whereby everyone is heard and key information is shared in a timely
manner," she said. "The matrixed staff ensures visibility of the 'what
if' questions that sometimes get missed during the time crunch of a
crisis. This allows as many of the key data points as possible to be on
the table during decision making efforts."