air force chain of command
Air Force

Air Force Chain of Command

Every branch of the military has a chain of command, and if you are in the United States Air Force, you follow the Air Force Chain of command.

The chain of command exists so that the orders issued from higher up the chain flow downwards.

Also, the chain of command works to clarify issues and answer questions from down the chain of command.

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Air Force Chain of Command

Recruits learn the chain of command in basic training
Image: defense.gov

The Air Force chain of command, from top to bottom, goes as follows: 

  • President of the United States
  • Secretary of Defense
  • Secretary of the Air Force
  • Air Force Chief of Staff
  • Vice Chief of Staff
  • Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force
  • Major Commands
    • Air Combat Command
    • Air Education and Training Command
    • Air Force Global Strike Command
    • Air Force Materiel Command
    • Air Force Reserve Command
    • Air Force Special Operations Command
    • Air Mobility Command
    • Pacific Air Forces
    • S. Air Forces Europe
  • Numbered Air Forces
  • Wings
  • Groups
  • Squadron
  • Flight

President of the United States

The President of the United States (POTUS) is at the top of the command chain in all military branches with the title Commander-in-Chief.

Secretary of Defense

The power of the Secretary of Defense authority in the chain of command is second only to the POTUS.

The Secretary of Defense has command and control both operationally and administratively of all military forces.

Currently, the acting Secretary of Defense is Christopher Miller, although this will change soon due to the President-elect’s expected appointment.

Secretary of the Air Force

Secretary of The Air Force is a part of the Air Force Chain of Command
Image: af.mil

The Secretary of the Air Force receives their appointment by the President of the United States.

Also, the Secretary of the Air Force is a civilian, and the appointment receives approval from the Senate.

As the Secretary of the Air Force, they report to the Secretary of Defense and has the privilege to conduct all the necessary affairs set forth by the Department of the Air Force.

Currently, Barbara Barret is the Secretary of the Air Force.

Air Force Chief of Staff

The Air Force Chief of Staff is responsible for the USAF Active-Duty, Reserves, and Guard units in the United States and overseas.

Currently, General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. services in this position, and he works with the Secretary of Defense, the POTUS, and the National Security Council.

Vice Chief of Staff

The Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force presides over the Air Staff and chief of staff, handing the organization of all the USAF Active-Duty, Reserves, and Guard units.

Furthermore, General David W. Allvin is the current Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force

A Chief Master Sergeant manages enlisted members of the Air Force. Also, this position requires mentoring of non-commissioned officers and advising unit commanders and all senior officers.

Currently, there are just over 2,000 members with the position of Chief Master Sergeant.

Air Force Chain of Command: Major Commands

In the Air Force, Major Commands have their own organizations that answer to the Major Command. All numbered air forces, squadrons, and flights fall under their major commands.

Air Combat Command

General Mark D. Kelly is the Commander of the Air Combat Command, and he is responsible for ensuring all forces are ready for combat.  Also, if we are at peace, his job does not end.

The Air Combat Command has eight numbered air forces as subordinates:

Air Education and Training Command

The Air Education and Training Command works to train and educate members of the Air Force.

Lieutenant General Marshall B. Webbcommands this major command, which is located in Texas.

Air Force Global Strike Command

The Air Force Global Strike Command, located in Bossier City, Louisiana, is commanded by General Timothy M. Ray.

This major command handles combat support, combat missiles, all of the Air Force’s bombers, and the Long Ranger Strike Program. 

Air Force Materiel Command

Located in Ohio and commanded by General Arnold W. Bunch Jr., the Air Force Material Command develops technology and handles testing and evaluation of weapon systems.

Air Force Reserve Command

The Air Force Reserve Command handles the operational force of the Air Force Reserves.

The Air Force reserves perform every Air Force function and offer operation force in any changing global landscape. 

The Commander for the Air Force Reserve Command is Lueitenent General Richard W. Scobee.

Air Force Special Operations Command

Located in Florida, the Air Force Special Operations Command is the special operations part of the Air Force.

Lueitenent Feneral James C. Slife commands this major command.

Air Mobility Command

General Jacqueline Van Ovost commands the Air Mobility Command out of Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

The Air Mobility Command works to stay ahead of technology to ensure our warfighting concepts and systems are the best.

Pacific Air Forces

Pacific Air Forces strive to support the objects set forth by United States Indo-Pacific Command and Pacific Air Forces. 

This major command, commanded by General Kenneth S. Wilsbach, works with allies and others to ensure stability.

U.S. Air Forces Europe

Air Force Chain of Command: Numbered Air Forces

Under the Major Commands are the Numbered Air Forces.

Each numbered Air Forces have their commanders who provide leadership. Usually, a Major General or Lieutenant General commands a Numbered Air Force.

However, the NAF chain of command goes upwards to the Major Commands.

Within the structure of a NAF, there are wings, groups, squadrons, and flights, all with their own chain of command that leads to the NAF commander.

Often, the Numbered Air Forces are assigned according to a geographical assignment.

Air Force Chain of Command: Wings

Wings have a narrow focus on a specific mission, and it is the organization that falls under the Numbered Air Forces.

A Wing is comprised of more than one group and several squadrons with one person in command.

The role of the wing is usually operational, specialized, or an air base wing.

Also, a wing has an operations, support, medical, and maintenance group.

Your chain of command does not start with the wing commander, however, because the wing is made up of more than one group. Your chain of command begins withing your flight or section.

Air Force Chain of Command: Groups

A group in the Air Force has at least two squadrons, but only one Commander in each group.

Typically, a Colonel heads an Air Force Group. However, it is essential to remember that while there are group commanders, the groups fall under the Wing Commander’s command.

Air Force Chain of Command: Squadron 

A Squadron is a basic unit in the Air Force, and it includes two flights and several aircraft.

Each Squadron has its Commander, who answers to the group commander. You would expect the Squadron Commander to be a Field-Grade Officer, Major, or Lieutenant Colonel.

A Squadron is considered a lower level of command.

Since each Squadron has two flights, you should evaluate the command and structure chain within a flight.

Air Force Chain of Command: Flights

The flight is the smallest grouping within the Air Force. There might be over a hundred people in a flight, but it is not unusual for a dozen people to make up a flight. Also, each flight has four aircraft.

Typically, a flight commander is a captain or a flight chief.

Your first step up your chain of command includes your flight commander because they handle day-to-day operations regarding people and equipment.

Rob V.
Chain of Command Air Force

Chain of Command Air Force

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Learn more about the Air Force chain of command, from top to bottom. OMK discusses the entire chain of command, including a brief description of each layer of the chain.
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