Friday, May 05, 2006
On Oct 2, 2001, after having done about 18 days of AT supporting the Emergency Crisis Center at BUPERS, I was one of five Reservists mobilized to BUPERS, forming what was then called "Pers-44M" (I came up with using "M" to stand for "Mobilized"). At that time the IA issue was hot and heavy at PERS and it was that with which we were initially tasked. Specifically, we were had to identify specific eligible candidates currently serving on shore duty who had the requested skills and qualifications. Until we arrived on the scene this was being done in an ad-hoc "fair-share" sort of way among the various branches (Pers-41/42/43/44), similar to the way 1000 and 1050 billets are distributed. This was recognized to be not the best way, as parochial interests invariably resulted in branch warfare over the "fair share". Additionally, the branch heads were encountering conflicts of interest in having to deal with claimants they were simultaneously manning and borrowing from (and the claimants kept trying to bargain their IA contributions in relation to prospective orders for others). Moving the IA process out of the branches allowed them to continue their normal business without complication and established us as an "honest broker" that simply looked for the right candidate from the right claimant. To make this easier I built a data system that identified suitable candidates and also provided detailed manning information on the potentially affected commands. After all, it's hard for the O-10 from the Naval Academy to push back too hard on an IA requirement when you can demonstrate to him that not only does he have four eligible candidates, but that he is also overmanned both in URLs and designator specific officers of the requested rank. About this time, though, many of our warnings concerning the management of the mobilization were beginning to be evidenced and our focus was, instead, shifted to getting a handle on what was happening with regard to the Reservists.
Fast forward to July 2003, when I demobilized, and we had centralized all mobilization order writing activities, including personal Sailor Advocacy with mobilized Reservists, employing a staff of around 20 full-time mobilized members and the support of a 20-man Reserve Unit. We still had an IA group, but it was relatively small, headed by an FTS Officer and was solely concerned with AC fills. On those occasions where an RC fill was identified as best for a specific IA request that requirement would be reproduced by OPNAV and communicated to CNRF for sourcing. IA orders were still 179-day TAD orders generated by the local commands IAW the JCS IA instruction.
Speaking of which, it should be noted that the term IA (Individual Augmentation) has a very specific meaning. By the IA Instruction, an IA is a requirement for a specific skill needed by a Combatant Commander that the JTF Commander cannot internally source and it is, therefore, referred up for external temporary fill. Since the JTFC we're talking about here is CENTCOM and they're carrying the lion's share of the fighting at this point any IA request that gets all the way through the JTFC is treated pretty much as gospel. At that point the actual requirements are evaluated and farmed out to the various services based upon their ability to provide. It should be no surprise to anyone who has been reading the relevant ALLNAVs that ADM Mullen and VADM Cotton are pointedly looking for how the Navy (AC and RC both) can maximize its contribution to the GWOT, hence an emphasis on IA of late. As I said, the last time I was closely involved AC IA orders were 179 days, but I think this was mainly due to type of orders (TAD) being used. It is my understanding that the standard today is one-year boots on ground plus any work-up and job specific/combat training mandated, possibly expanding the orders to up to 18 months.
To specifically address some of Chap's issues/questions:
- The previous shorter tours ... got pushback ... [s]o a lot of 1 year tours now. Addressed above. One specific concern was personnel safety, i.e. putting someone in the field who could effectively place rounds downrange if required. With the additional required tactical training pipeline the overall length of tour had to be increased.
- For some unknown reason they didn't invent a paper USS Sandbox and detail for that; the process is a bit more ad hoc. This won't work from a manpower/manning perspective. IAs are, by definition, outside the manning structure and transitory in nature. By instruction each IA has to be reviewed and validated every time it to be refilled, the specific reasoning being that if we have a "temporary" job in place for several years it isn't all that temporary and needs to be evaluated for inclusion into TFFMS. Creating a new manning structure, however, is a more static process, automatically affecting end-strength, budgeting and conveying all sorts of other meanings to the manpower weenies in the Annex. The idea of maintaining a flexible temporary billet structure, however, is fundamental to the NCMCPS requirements module and I believe there are efforts underway to adapt it to the IA manning problem.
- Guys are getting ORDMODS between duty stations. Sometimes it's a surprise. The number one reason for any IA surprises is inaction on behalf of the supporting command. In too many cases BUPERS tells a command "we need a 1300 O-4 with strike planning experience in 90-days" and they just blow off the requirement. Once it becomes a critical manning issue and a little O-9 pressure is applied they usually pick the guy they don't know and, voila, he gets a short notice ORDMOD because his gaining command screwed him. Also, there are cases where a candidate washes out or becomes non-deployable (injury, etc.) and a replacement has to be pulled out of the hat in short order. As far as I know the actual initial tasking is almost always communicated at least 90 days out. As an interesting side note, when I was talking to the Pers-46 branch head last month he mentioned that the IA washout rate for AC was about the same as RC!
- BuPers is also sending their own folks. BUPERS has always been conscious of not getting into a "do as I say, not as I do" position vis-a-vis IA contribution. As an example, we wrote orders for the Pers-44 Branch Head (O-6 1310) to CENTCOM for 179 days back in early 2002.
- But this in practice means that LTs get the call first. Field grade guys, CT, EOD, and so forth are in demand. I'm not privy to current requirements, but early in the process they were looking for experience, O-5 and even O-6. My feeling is that the biggest target is probably in the O-4 range, but anyone warfare qualified and finished with first sea tour (i.e. O-3+) is possible. You are correct that CT and EOD are wanted, as are EW, IP, chops and security. Another trend is using senior personnel (O-5/O-6) in non-combat-specific leadership roles to free experienced Army warriors to use their experience in a more directed and relevant manner.
- My take is that Pers-42 seems to have succeeded so far in maintaining the standard "too important to take the bogey" stance. Don't know for sure, but this probably is a result of a concerted effort in mid-late '90s to trim 1120 shore manning requirements. At that time the other branches pretty much ignored the call to do so and so their shore billet structure is looked at as somewhat "fat".
- Promotion board precepts on the web do *not* say things like "IA is promoted better than non-IAs". FITREPs aren't always clear about "combat proven", and may be written badly enough that a record reviewer could think you were lallygagging on shore duty. A competitive FITREP in theater, or at least one that avoids automatically being '5 of 5' at the home job because you were gone to Iraq, might avoid a short term career ding. Not plugged in to the selection boards much any more, but as always make sure to try and remove potential ambiguity. If a FITREP can possibly be interpreted negatively at least one person probably will.
WESTPAC Warrior is right that a big factor, besides patriotism, is maintaining relevancy in a DoD that is very focused on a ground war with a minimal maritime aspect. Now, once we go at it with Iran and have to control the SOH, deny their SOF and tag their Kilos things may be a bit different...
Bullnav, if you really want to go to the desert just call me and I'll get you orders. You are, however, just making the same point I have been making for several years now. The more that Reserve manning and detailing is pulled from CNRF and moved to Pers-46 the better it gets, though. The Navy mobilization experience has been unique and instructive, in that the majority of our people were ordered as an individual mobilization and not part of a unit mobilization. This can provide us the experience to help us better manage the IA task, but on the RC side of business I agree that there isn't much of a clear overall strategy of managing our human capital. I have heard whispers that it is changing, but I know some of the folks in CNRF who would have to change their way of doing business to make it happen, and the prospects for real change don't look good to me.