By Master Sgt. Roger Drinnon, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 11, 2006
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss (AETCNS) -- Today, more than 800 Airmen are attending Army ground combat skills training at several Army installations, preparing them for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom deployments. The Airmen require the training because they will be assigned duties outside their normal Air Force Specialties. In the near-term, these numbers are expected to increase substantially.
Commonly referred to as "in-lieu-of" (ILO) taskings, Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines from a cross-section of all military specialties are performing non traditional missions to provide temporary augmentation.
Second Air Force has been tasked by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley to add to its technical training responsibilities the oversight of Airmen throughout their ILO Training cycle.
"Our goal is to take care of our people, as our Air Force mission requirements continue to evolve," said Maj. Gen. Mike Gould, 2nd Air Force commander. "We want to ensure our Airmen can perform safely and effectively in combat alongside our sister services while maintaining their Air Force identity."
ILOT initiatives ensure Airmen are prepared for non-traditional combat environments in support of the Combatant Commander's requirements where some Airmen are deployed to assist Army personnel. Second Air Force wants to support every Airmen engaged in this enhanced, realistic training and to address their current and future service needs.
General Gould emphasized Airmen deploying in support of Army mission requirements must maintain an Air Force chain-of-command.
"Airmen will continue to have readily-available Air Force leadership eager to address any concerns," the general said. "I'm grateful that we have such high-caliber Airmen in our Air Force who can step up to these challenges, and their continuous feedback is essential for leadership to be able to respond to any training or personnel issues that might arise. Second Air Force will ensure all Airmen have an Air Force chain-of-command throughout their time in ILOT."
ILOT is designed to develop a population of Airmen who are combat-ready and able to fulfill duties outside their normal Air Force specialty. Prior to deployment, Airmen tasked to augment certain Army missions receive combat skills training at one of 14 Army training locations now designated as Power Projection Platforms.
Current Army PPPs include: Camp Shelby, Miss; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Sill, Okla; White Sands, N.M; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Lewis, Wash; Fort McCoy, Wis; Camp Atterbury, Ind; Fort Dix, N.J; Aberdeen, Md; Fort Monroe, Va; Fort Bragg, N.C; and Fort Benning, Ga.
Typical skill sets taught during ILOT include enhanced combat weapons proficiency training, land navigation and Global Positioning Satellite training, expanded self-aid and buddy-care called "combat lifesaver" training, detecting and responding to Improvised Explosive Devices and a host of other current tactics determined to be relevant to certain theaters of operation. Theater-specific training might vary, depending on the location of an Airman's pending deployment.
"What we are trying to do here is train Airmen to do missions and roles they weren't traditionally used to, because they're helping their buddies in another service," said Army Col. John Hadjis, commander of 3rd Brigade, 87th Division Training Support at Camp Shelby, Miss. "We developed this training out of what is commonly called ‘theater immersion,' which is a philosophy of take the Soldier, take the Sailor, take the Airman, and train him or her to fight in the same conditions and same missions as they would expect to see in-theater."
Second Air Force officials said the training initiatives will be fully implemented by Sept. 30. A team from 2nd Air Force, along with a United States Central Command Air Forces Personnel Support for Contingency Operations element, received and prepared 183 airmen commencing training at Camp Shelby.
"When you get down here, things are a little hectic, but as time moves on, you're getting into the training," said Staff Sgt Matt Leas, a marketing information manager for the 364th Recruiting Squadron, Sacramento, Calif. "Some of it is intense - a lot of time (in small arms training) - which is good," he continued. "It's good to work with the Army to find out what we'll be doing down-range. The instructors are good - they really know their stuff, and that's really what we're looking for down here."
Colonel Hadjis said the training was designed to improve competencies in essential combat skills.
"The training is built on 41 individual tasks and nine collective tasks - tasks an Airman would do as part of a team," said the colonel. "They're centered around competencies and warrior skills like shooting, communicating, taking care of your buddy, and surviving, dealing and negotiating in the culture you're going to be in."
Colonel Hadjis said the training exemplifies the concept of taking care of people, as military personnel in all services face non-traditional combat environments with "no front lines."
"I think it's the best possible example of taking care of folks, because we're making them as ready as they possibly can be to succeed at their mission, safeguard their people and come home in good shape," the colonel said.
General Gould said he applauds the adaptability of today's Airmen in overcoming the challenges of ever-changing combat environments.
"Today, more than ever, our Airmen are warriors," the general said. "I am proud to be associated with Air Force people who are so devoted to defending our great nation while being true team players, even when it means stepping outside their normal duties and specialties."