Editor’s Note: The Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC) reports the pace of deployments is slowing as compared to years past, but the current operational tempo the Air Force is maintaining is still very stressful on personnel, resources, and equipment. While combat operations are still underway, requiring the presence of fighters and bombers, Air Mobility Command (AMC) assets are among those most heavily relied on, as well as personnel tasked with Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) duties.

The Air Force is still relying on tens of thousands of airmen to carry out its mission overseas — but the type of airmen being deployed is changing greatly.

The number of airmen deployed last year has dropped from fiscal 2013, according to statistics provided by the Air Force Personnel Center.

However, the types of airmen being tapped most often to serve overseas are quite different. In 2013, airmen in career fields such as explosive ordnance disposal, Tactical Air Control Party and air liaison officers were at the top of the list of the busiest airmen.

AFPC: Deployments Focus More On Mobility, ISR
A General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper RPA. ISR assets and personnel like this are among those in highest demand for deployments, according to AFPC. (U.S. Air Force photo)

But times have changed. In fiscal 2015, enlisted airmen such as airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operators, in-flight refuelers and remotely-piloted aircraft maintainers were among the most heavily-deployed, according to AFPC statistics. And on the officer side, bomber, special operations and RPA pilots and special operations, bomber and rescue combat systems officers are now some of the most heavily-deployed.

That change in who is most frequently deployed is probably due to the changing nature of the conflicts the Air Force is engaging in, said Col. Darren Cole, chief of war planning and policy in an interview Monday. As the Air Force fights the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, it’s relying heavily on manned and unmanned aircraft to collect intel on militants and then kill them.

AFPC statistics showed 51,553 enlisted airmen deployed in fiscal 2015 as part of a contingency operation or as part of an exercise. That’s down from the 73,975 enlisted airmen deployed in 2013. And 13,102 officers deployed last year, down from 21,997 officers in 2013.

The original article at the Air Force Times can be viewed in its entirety right here.