Air Force trains to fill Army deployments
By Staff Sgt. Jeremy Larlee , Air Force Print News
/ Published October 11, 2006
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Located about an hour north of Biloxi, Camp Shelby has a reputation for weather that could make the devil sweat.
The harsh weather ratchets up the realism of the training that some Air Force people receive before deploying to locations like Iraq and Afghanistan. The camp is one of the locations where Air Force people are trained by the Army in combat survival skills before they deploy to fill in-lieu-of, or ILO, taskings.
The taskings are for Army positions being filled by Air Force and Navy people. The month-long training helps prepare Airmen to interact with the Army at the deployed location. Weapon and convoy training are some of the topics the class covers. Airmen often are deployed immediately after they complete the course.
Major Gen. Michael Gould, commander of 2nd Air Force, said the training is top-notch.
"It is a very professional training operation and we are very impressed with what they do," he said. "It's important that the proper training is provided for our Airmen as they go to conduct some of these non-traditional missions that are outside their core competencies."
The 2nd Air Force serves as liaison to the Army for the training, and General Gould has visited the AOR to see first-hand the missions Air Force people are filling.
Army Col. John Hadjis, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 87th Division, which is in charge of conducting the training, said it is great that the Air Force has stepped in to assist the Army. He said it allows them to send troops to other vital locations and even to give people a break who have deployed several times.
"I have spent the past 22 years of my life in the Army and now I finally believe I'm in the military," Colonel Hadjis said.
The colonel also has some advice for people scheduled to attend the course.
"Spend time with your family because you are going to work very hard here at Shelby and then you will be deployed," he said.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Delbert Taylor, a combat skills instructor for the course, said that he tries to share his experience gained through multiple deployments with his students. He said that the training the Air Force receives is, in a way, a version of the training the Army receives.
"Our training has not changed," he said. "We have maintained one standard, so that when everybody deploys they have the same level of readiness and the same quality of training."
Tech. Sgt. Tracey Johnson, who is deployed from Misawa Air Base, Japan, said that even though the training is rough, it is very helpful. She deployed to the AOR a few years ago and wishes she had gotten the training back then. She had to take part in convoys and said it was stressful because she wasn't fully trained. She said future students need to prepare for a different kind of training than they are used to.
"Understand, we are dealing with a different service and they have a different way of doing things," she said.
General Gould said the training is tough but Air Force people can succeed if they come to train with the right attitude.
"Come to the training with the mindset that you are going to learn the skills that are going to help you survive, operate and return home safely," he said.