SECAF: Ground-support missions a temporary change for AF culture

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Shawn J. Jones
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Airmen are increasingly meeting the enemy face-to-face while augmenting ground commanders in non-traditional roles more typical of Soldiers.

These in-lieu-of taskings, as they are known, are part of the Air Force's temporary culture change to help meet the immediate demands of fighting the Global War on Terror, said Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Jan. 19.

"The Army needs our help," said Mr. Wynne. "We are here and we are providing it."

The secretary explained that the warrior spirit of the approximately 5,000 deployed Airmen who perform ground-support missions has been extraordinary, but their primary focus will return to flying and fighting in air, space and cyberspace.

Basic self-defense and force-protection skills are essential to protecting Air Force resources, but ground-based battlefields are not the domain of Airmen. The Air Force was created because of the leverage that Airmen bring to the joint fight, he said.

"We need to be careful as to how we stress that element of our force and how we lose the leverage of an Airman because 'Every Airman, a Rifleman' does not work in the end," said Mr. Wynne.

While performing ground operations is not part of the Air Force's long-term vision, Airmen must continue to train and prepare for these roles based on the needs of deployed ground commanders.

"A little familiarity with ground-support missions and how you are going to react over there just pays an amazing amount of dividends," said Secretary Wynne.

Recent changes to Air Force basic military training has emphasized ground-based combat techniques to better prepare Airmen for the realities of fighting the Global War on Terror.

Additionally, many Airmen attend advanced training specifically designed for in-lieu-of tasking deployments. The training typically addresses combat skills that Airmen need to refine before working alongside Soldiers. Weapons proficiency training, land navigation, expanded self-aid and buddy-care training and detecting improvised explosive devices are a few of the basic combat skills that Airmen learn during the training.

The goal of the training is to prepare combat-ready Airmen who can fulfill non-traditional duties to deployed ground commanders.

"There's really no way to prepare for Iraq," said Senior Airman Joshua Bandy, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 4th Civil Engineer Squadron, who performed an in-lieu-of deployment tasking during the summer of 2006. "You can receive all the training in the world but it's no comparison to what you'll actually see."

Airman Bandy attended a four-week predeployment course at Fort Sill, Okla. He said the greatest advantage of the training was an increased familiarity with the day-to-day culture of the Army.

"The Army operates completely different," said Airman Bandy.

Those differences between the services are eroding gradually as more and more Airmen lend their warfighting skills to ground-based missions.

"While the mission of the 4th Fighter Wing is to put airpower on-target, on-time for America, to win the Global War on Terror, we must be more flexible than our enemy," said Col. Russell Walden, 4th Mission Support Group commander. "Airmen from the 4th Mission Support Group are currently supporting convoy-support and explosive-ordnance-disposal roles in joint efforts. Our Airmen are well-trained warfighters that will answer our nation's call for support whenever and wherever called upon."