U.S. Air Force Command Structure

The United States Air Force (USAF) is the air service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the eight U.S. uniformed services. Initially formed as a part of the United States Army on 1 August 1907, the USAF was established as a separate branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on 18 September 1947 with the passing of the National Security Act of 1947. It is the second youngest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and the fourth in order of precedence. The U.S. Air Force articulates its core missions as air superiority, global integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control. The highest-ranking military officer in the Air Force is the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, who exercises supervision over Air Force units and serves as one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The U.S. Air Force includes more than 329,000 active service airmen plus 69,000 Reserve and 107,000 Air National Guard personnel and is the third largest service branch. The Air Force's organizational chart comprises a wide range of units of all sizes. Together We Served has created the largest directory of U.S. Air Force units, reflecting USAF's structure. Each Unit Page on Together We Served contains comprehensive information on Air Force Unit History, Citations, Patches, Photos, Reunions and also includes a list of Together We Served Members who were assigned to this Air Force Unit. TWS serves as a virtual military base where Air Force Veterans of all eras can share in the camaraderie of other Veterans in a secure military-only environment.

As you browse the Together We Served Unit directory, you will come across various types of units that reflect how the Air Force is organized. The Air Force command structure is similar to that of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard.

The elements of command in the U.S. Air Force are:


Formed of two or more airmen, this is also referred to as an "element" in basic training.


Broken into three types, flights can be numbered, alpha or functional. A flight comprises individual airmen or sections.


Squadrons consist of two or more flights. They are the lowest level of command with a headquarters element, usually identified by number and function. The 1st Reconnaissance Squadron is an example. A squadron is commanded by a major or lieutenant colonel.


A group consists of two or more squadrons, often functionally aligned within a wing. Per AFI 38-101 Air Force Organization (21 April 2015) a group is a "level of command between wings and squadrons. USAF groups are usually commanded by a full colonel.


USAF wings are structured to fulfill a mission from a specific base, and contain a headquarters and four groups: an operations group, a maintenance group, a medical group and a mission support group. Most USAF wings are commanded by a colonel, but some are commanded by brigadier generals.

Numbered Air Force (NAF)

Wings, squadrons and groups can all be assigned to a numbered air force, which usually has a geographical assignment. First Air Force, for example, ensures the air sovereignty and air defense of the continental United States, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. NAFs are commanded by either a major general or lieutenant general.

Major Commands

Major commands, or MAJCOMs, can be organized two ways: by mission (such as Global Strike Command or Mobility Command) or by region outside the continental United States (such as Pacific Air Forces). Major commands report directly to Air Force Headquarters. A Major Command is commanded by a General.