More than 800 Airmen are attending Army ground combat skills training, preparing them for operations Enduring Freedom and 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," or ILO, taskings, Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines from a cross-section of all military specialties are performing nontraditional missions to provide temporary augmentation.
The 2nd Air Force staff was tasked by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley to add to its technical training responsibilities 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. Michael C. Gould, 2nd AF commander. "We want to ensure Airmen can perform safely and effectively in combat alongside our sister services while maintaining their Air Force identity."
The aim of ILO training is to prepare Airmen for nontraditional combat environments in support of the combatant commanders' requirements where Airmen are deployed to assist Army personnel. Second Air Force wants to support all Airmen engaged in this enhanced, realistic training and 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 ILO training."
ILO training is designed to develop a population of Airmen who are combat-ready and able to fulfill duties outside their normal Air Force specialty. Before deploying, Airmen tasked to augment certain Army missions receive combat skills training at one of 14 Army training locations now designated as Power Projection Platforms. Those include: Camp Shelby, Miss.; Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Sill, Okla.; White Sands, N.M.; Fort Riley, Kan.; 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 ILO training 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 relevant tactics. Theater-specific training might vary.
"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," Colonel Hadjis said.
Second Air Force officials said the training initiatives will be fully implemented by Sept. 30. A team from 2nd AF and an element from the U.S. Central Command Air Forces received and prepared 183 Airmen beginning 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 in Sacramento, Calif.
"Some of it is intense -- a lot of time (in small arms training) -- which is good," he said. "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."