Air Force Officer Wants His Airmen Back

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A senior officer at a key strategic bomber base says he hopes the Army can stop using his personnel as cannon fodder and let them concentrate on their real job of "putting bombs on target from B-1s." In a commentary that appeared in Air Combat Command's Web newsletter on Wednesday, Lt. Col. Gerald Goodfellow of the 28th Operations Group at Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota says that while he's proud of the job Air Force personnel do when they are assigned "light infantry" positions in the Army, it's not what they signed on for and he's worried it could sap the Air Force's strength. "In America's current wars the Air Force has found itself in a situation where it, in effect, has to pay for and train its Airmen to serve ground duty (a form of 'light infantry,' to quote Gen. Ronald Keys, Air Combat Command commander) and then pay to supply that light infantry with items from bullet proof vests to armored vehicles to keep them safe," Goodfellow wrote. "I believe the Air Force should spend its money on capabilities that will ensure future air dominance." Goodfellow says that since 9/11, Air Force personnel have been required to take "in-lieu-of taskings" to fill gaps in Army ranks in war zones. He says people who should be helping to ensure air superiority have "taken part in harrowing firefights and missions in support of ground (mostly Army) forces." Goodfellow says he understands the current needs of ground forces and the Air Force has been happy to help out, but he hopes it doesn't go on indefinitely. "I personally hope that all the services are currently striving to organize in a way that will largely prevent Air Force personnel from conducting 'in-lieu-of' taskings in the future," he wrote. "This is because I do not believe the Air Force should be in the business of fighting combat operations on the ground."