May 15 2000 Air Force Times
I saw in the April 3 issue that the Air Force was considering a plan to create a pararescue officer career track ("Pararescue officer plan delayed" News Breaks) I applaud the idea, but there is another career track that should be given careful study. The Air Force has need an Air Liaison officer track for years, and as far as I can tell, it hasn’t seriously considered the concept. There is an entire career field of enlisted Air Force Warriors (1C4X0) who have no career officers to lead them.
Leadership in air support operations squadrons and groups turns over 100 percent every two years with rated officers who most likely have never been ALOs and don’t particularly want to be. There is no continuity in leadership, and the enlisted members of the squadron end up teaching each new set of officers how to do the job.
There is a school, the Joint Firepower Control Course, to which future ALOs are sent, but it dosen’t really teach an officer to be an ALO. For instance, Army officers attend the same course, but we would never consider making them ALOs.
Rated ALOs are generally non-volunteers and see the ALO assignment as time away from the cockpit that hurts their careers.
A career ALO track would return valuable rated officers to the cockpit and give the Army long-term professionals instead of “guest Help” when planning air support to ground operations.
Detractors who say there aren’t enough ALOs to make it a viable career need on only look at the STT (Former CCT) officer numbers to see if they are viable. Fresh tactics, techniques and procedures can still be brought into the ASOSs via one or two rated ALO slots per squadron, but having career officers would benefit both the Air force and the Army.
I have spent more than half my Air Force career on Army posts as an ALO – By choice. In the beginning, I, too, thought all ALOs needed to be rated fighter crews, but experience taught me how wrong I was.
Creating an ALO career field is an idea whose time is well past due. It would require some out-of-the box thinking and a genuine commitment from the Air Force to the close air support mission for the long term, but the advantages well outweigh the costs.
Col Buddy Knox
Fort Leavenworth, Kan.