Inside The Air Force
October 19, 2007
With the Army and Marine Corps stressed from continued operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, top Air Force brass see airmen filling key ground service support roles indefinitely. But at the same time, service officials are more often voicing concerns about the negative effects associated with long-term “in-lieu-of” taskings.
In-lieu-of personnel -- or ILOs as they are called within the defense community -- are airmen or sailors who are assigned to Army or Marine Corps units and perform tasks such as driving trucks and filling other combat support rolls outside of their service’s traditional core missions. The number of airmen carrying out these “in-lieu-of” missions grew from roughly 1,900 in 2004 to over 5,000 in 2007.
The long-term impacts are that airmen and sailors are not training and preparing for their conventional roles, Joint Forces Command chief Gen. Lance Smith said in an Oct. 16 conference call with reporters. While the four-star believes the ILOs are a “good use of forces in the short-term,” overuse can lead to “long-term impacts if you don’t try and resolve that early.
“Everybody has issues with in-lieu-of training,” said Smith, who is retiring at the end of the year. “The solution . . . is to try to make sure that we constantly keep the force knowledgeable of what those areas are that really need us to take a look at and either increase the manning or increase the training or change the mission set.”
Since the origin of the ILO tasking, the Air Force has become aware of some “severe disconnects in the way training was happening,” and has been working for the past 18 months to correct issues, Lt. Gen. William Looney, chief of Air and Education Training Command, said during a Sept. 25 panel discussion at an Air Force Association-sponsored conference in Washington.
During a July 31 hearing of the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee, lawmakers voiced concerns that ILOs needed to receive on-the-job training for battlefield equipment use after they arrived in theater.
“We have had soldiers tell us, ‘We were trained on one type of vehicle or one type of weapon and when we got over there, it was completely different,’” Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) said at the time.
During the September panel discussion, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley said experiences -- like the one described by Reyes -- “lead us to believe that this bears watching.
“The people are actually trained to provide a certain skill set and then get into theater and are told to do something else,” he said. “As a service chief, I’m not necessarily amused by that.”
There also has been some “grumbling” over the continued use of ILO forces, especially since the Army and Marine Corps are increasing their end strength by 92,000, Smith said. As those services increase their personnel numbers, they are trying to build more capability into the areas where ILO forces are most prevalent.
But until then, airmen and sailors will continue to drive trucks and perform other non-traditional combat tasks, in turn prompting the Air Force to adjust its training procedures.
In response to the increase of ILO taskings, 2nd Air Force has created a command and control system that tracks all airmen assigned to Army or Marine Corps units in theater, Looney said. Air Force officials in Iraq and Afghanistan also make sure airmen performing other services’ tasks and duties are properly equipped and working for service personnel.
“Our obligation . . . is to ensure we provide those folks with the best care and most efficient and effective training possible,” he said. “I’m very convinced we’re doing that now.”
Just how long the service will need to train its airmen for other missions is still unknown.
“I don’t know that this will end,” Moseley said noting the service must focus on the training for ILO personnel.
Looney, the training chief, said: “I think the first thing to . . . take as an assumption is in-lieu-of tasking is not going to go away. Maybe it will, but I think, as a guiding principal to start off with, we should not bet on . . . that it is.” -- Marcus Weisgerber