What's in a badge?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Steve Mullins
  • 81st Training Wing Inspector General

When out and about on the base, I’m often asked the meaning of my Air Force Inspector General Badge. More often than not, when I tell someone I work for the 81st Training Wing IG office, the common response is a raised eyebrow. This look obviously indicates some are leery or do not fully understand the role of an IG member.   

With very few exceptions, most wing IG offices have two primary functions. First, to oversee the wing’s Inspection and Exercise programs. Second, to manage the wing commander’s Complaints Resolution Program. Via these two functions, the IG is essentially the “eyes and ears” for the wing commander (and you) to critically assess overall mission effectiveness, efficiency and compliance.

So, to alleviate the repeated raised eye brows and hopefully educate the team, this article deals primarily with the complaints side of the house, CRP.   

We all know it takes people to accomplish the mission; however, it can be extremely difficult to focus on the mission when dealing with an unresolved issue. Even though we are all taught early on in our military career that it’s generally best to resolve issues at the lowest level, what if you do not know who to turn to or you feel for what could be multiple reasons that you can’t talk to your chain of command? This is where the person wearing the symbolic image of an IG badge simply says, we are here for all Airmen, family members, civilian employees, and retirees – highly trained and ready to assist.   

Now most believe that IG’s investigate and resolve any and all complaints (we call them grievances) and that’s just not true. Most grievances fall in the lane of your command team or other helping agencies like equal opportunity, Air Force Personnel Center, airmen and family readiness, etc. Within the IG’s lane, it’s our primary responsibility to address issues of restriction and reprisal; which both have very specific meanings, defined by congressional law (Title 10 U.S.C. 1034). To explain further:

Restriction: It’s against the law for anyone to prohibit or attempt to prohibit any of us from speaking to an IG member or a member of Congress.

Reprisal: It’s against the law for anyone to take or threaten to take an unfavorable personnel action against you OR withhold a favorable personnel action against you for making a Protected Communication. Ok, what’s a PC? A PC is any communication with an IG member or member of congress or communicating information to individuals such as your chain of command and others that you believe is a violation of law or regulation.

As you can see, restriction is pretty simple. No one can restrict you from talking to the IG or Congress. Reprisal, on the other hand is more complex, generally taking extended periods of time to gain perspective and the gathering of fact-based information to define the grievance.

Now with all that said, just because IG’s primarily address Restriction and Reprisal issues doesn’t mean we won’t listen to your grievance. Quite the contrary. Again, the badge symbolizes we are trained and ready to be objective, credible and responsive while assisting those team members in need. If your grievance is not in our lane, we can assist by getting you to the right agency.

The bottom line is instead of being spooked by the badge, turn to the badge and know our team (via the CRP) is ready to help resolve your grievance. Badge or no badge, it is the Total Force that must do our very best to take care of the people who in turn take care of our no-fail mission.

To file a restriction or reprisal complaint or talk with the IG, call 228-377-3010 (DSN: 591-3010) or email us at 81trw.ig2@us.af.mil. The link to our Air Force Complaints website is: http://www.af.mil/Inspector-General-Complaints/.