More Pacific airmen to be asked to deploy
As the U.S. Air Force is asked to provide more support to the Army and the Marine Corps in Iraq, more Pacific Air Forces airmen can expect to deploy downrange and for longer periods, according to military officials.
This year, PACAF deployed nearly 6,000 airmen to more than 100 locations worldwide, and the number is expected to increase, according to Lt. Col. Eric Armstrong, chief of the Air and Space Expeditionary Force Matters Branch at PACAF headquarters in Hawaii.
“Deployments have been on the rise recently due to deployed commanders requesting more troops to accomplish the mission they’ve been assigned,” Armstrong said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “PACAF Airmen do serve In-Lieu-Of missions (positions normally served by the Army) and those have been increasing.”
Armstrong said PACAF deploys about 1,800 to 2,000 airmen per four-month AEF, or air expeditionary force, rotation. The number of airmen tasked to deploy for each rotation is expected to increase 5 percent to 10 percent per period for the near term, according to Armstrong.
For the current AEF cycle, about 2,000 PACAF members are deployed, according to Armstrong.
Two years ago, about 1,400 airmen were preparing to deploy for the same time period, Stars and Stripes reported in August 2005.
Approximately half of airmen who deploy Air Force-wide go to locations in Iraq, Armstrong noted.
Earlier this month, Col. Karl Bosworth, commander of the 732nd Air Expeditionary Group at Balad Air Base, said the Air Force next year will triple the number of airmen working under and helping the Army and the Marine Corps as part of its own “surge” in troops to Iraq.
There are about 1,500 airmen working in Army and Marine units throughout Iraq, with the number expected to rise in coming months as the military shifts from fighting an insurgency to nation-building, according to Bosworth.
From the Pacific, Armstrong said several hundred airmen will deploy for in-lieu-of, or ILO, missions during AEF Cycle 7, which begins in January. Most will be assigned to jobs within their “core competency” in security forces, explosive ordnance disposal, civil engineering, transportation, medical and public affairs.
“The remainder will train for unique missions including civil affairs, training teams and detainee ops,” Armstrong wrote.
The issue isn’t as critical for those airmen stationed in South Korea, according to 7th Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Rene White.
“Airmen stationed in Korea are considered forward deployed here to accomplish the mission critical requirements to maintain the armistice in the Republic of Korea,” White wrote in an e-mail Tuesday. “Routinely these airmen do not deploy from their present stations in the Republic of Korea.”
The Air Force ILO footprint in U.S. Central Command has grown from about 1,900 airmen in 2004 to 5,000 in 2007, and it is expected to reach about 6,000 in 2008, according to information the Air Force provided to the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness last spring.
ILO missions typically last 179 or 365 days.
Each base usually is tapped twice during the 20-month AEF rotation as the primary source for expeditionary combat support. This summer, for example, Misawa Air Base in northern Japan deployed nearly 700 airmen for the most recent AEF cycle.
Armstrong said, however, that each base in PACAF sends at least a few airmen in each AEF period as “enablers” and “individual augmentees.”