4 years ago NAVADMIN 147/07 began the process of transitioning the Individual Augmentee process away from “Welcome Aboard, you’ve been selected to go on an IA” to “OK, you have time in your career path, we can send you on a GWOT Support Assignment”. Given the pathetic manner in which many commands had handled the IA assignment process (as well as the pathetic manner in which Navy had apportioned IAs to manpower claimants) the GSA was heralded as a good thing that allowed officers and Sailors to plan and removed the burden from commands to provide short notice fills from already decreased ranks.
A fact little known outside the military is that the Navy has been supplementing the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan for almost a decade now through a program known as Individual Augmentees.
In the early days of the campaigns of the Global War on Terror, as the Army started to build the support and infrastructure for the theaters, they asked the Navy for help filling staffs that they didn’t have warm bodies for. And the Navy pitched in and helped.
But it was a pretty bad deal for the Navy. First, some poor sailor got stuck in a job he never enlisted for. If he wanted to serve on an Army staff, he would have enlisted in the Army. Second, these sailors were often assigned on very short notice, with all the disruptions that entails. Third, they were “fish out of water” in that the routine personnel support structures were geared to providing admin support to Army people, not Navy folks. Problems with pay, and other similar functions were that much harder to resolve. Lastly, these folks assigned not as a regular set of orders, but were taken from a Navy command, leaving that command short handed. Ships and squadrons already facing problems getting a full crew now had to deal with having one of their sailors deployed for a year or more. And they didn’t get a replacement for them, as their sailor was still technically assigned to them, and only “loaned out” for a while.
For the most part, the “IA’s” did their jobs to the best of their ability, and took pride in their contribution to the war. But their frustrations are real.
Further, what was originally intended to be a short term “gap filler” while the Army got itself organized has turned into a crutch the Army relies on far too much. After a decade, there really is no excuse for the Army to continue to filch manpower from the Navy just to fill job slots.
It’s time for the Army to say “Thanks for the help” and end the program.