Air liaison officer assessment tests mettle of would-be forward air controllers

  • Published
  • By Don Branum
  • Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Airmen with the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., conducted a five-day air liaison officer assessment here, Aug. 2 through Monday, to determine how many of 35 ALO candidates had the leadership, followership and adaptability required to succeed in formal training and become career ALOs.

Conducting training at the Academy instead of in Georgia in August reduces attrition from heat-based injuries, said Maj. Andrea Hagen, the 93rd AGOW's director of operations.

"When we conducted the assessment in August of last year, out of 35 candidates, 17 went to the hospital for heat injuries," said Hagen, who has a background in battlefield weather. "So I said to my commander, how about we do this at the Air Force Academy, because we'd have fewer heat injuries. He said go ahead."

In contrast, only two candidates succumbed to heat-related injuries during the assessments here, Hagen said. Another nine had withdrawn their candidacies during the course of the assessments -- which, Hagen said, is part of the reason why the assessments are held.

Hagen also praised the Academy's facilities.

"We have everything we need in one location, so we don't have to travel much," she said.
The ALO career field is fairly new: In the past, it consisted entirely of pilots who received two- to four-year ALO assignments, Hagen said.

"Rated ALOs bring their frame-specific experience to the fight, so we still need their experience," she said. "But career ALOs will have a better bond with the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers. It promotes continuity. Having both rated ALOs and career ALOs is the best mix for the Air Force."

Many of the candidates in the August course were ROTC cadets, but four cadets from the Academy took part. Hagen said the 93rd's Airmen try to evaluate cadets before they graduate so they can go straight into the training pipeline after graduation.

The class also included several commissioned officers, including several captains and a major.

"The mix is good because they come from different backgrounds with different levels of experience," Hagen said. "They draw on one another. The cadets don't necessarily have the Air Force experience that the commissioned officers do, and they gain from going through the assessments together."

One of the students, a lieutenant, said on Sunday that he's had a good time during the assessments. He added, though, that he looked forward to the end of training Monday.
"Tomorrow's going to be a very good day," he said.

Officers wishing to become ALOs must be non-rated in the grades of O-1 through O-4 and have less than 11 years total active federal commissioned service by the time they begin their assessment. Candidates must volunteer for hazardous duty, and they must meet tactical air control party physical and medical standards. Academy cadets must receive endorsements from their squadron and group air officers commanding.