PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Members of the two storied units at the Illinois Air National Guard’s 182nd Airlift Wing will have to find new jobs within the U.S. Air Force.
Members of the 566th Air Force Band and the 168th and 169th Air Support Operations squadrons have been officially told their units are being decommissioned as part of a larger effort to reduce the size of the Air Force and redirect resources.
About 210 airmen are affected by the move, which will occur over two years at the 182nd. The National Guard has said they hope to add new missions to the Peoria-based airlift wing. Those who are affected by the decommissioning, the guard, said, will be offered several ways to remain in the service.
The ASOS units are comprised of members of the Tactical Air Control Party which is military jargon for highly skilled airmen who help call in air strikes while serving with group troops.
TACPs are comprised of several joint terminal air controllers, or JTACs, who coordinate air support between the pilots in the sky and the troops on the ground. It’s among the smallest career fields in the military building upon the brotherhood bonds that already exist among service members.
Peoria’s JTACs and TACPs were deployed numerous times during the Global War on Terror. Many earned commendations for bravery. One man, Jacob Frazier, 24, of St. Charles died while working with the Army’s elite Green Berets when his team was ambushed March 29, 2003, in Afghanistan.
Illinois Guard leaders said they would adapt to the decommissioning.
“As leaders, we never want to lose units,” said Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, the state National Guard commander. “However, the U.S. Air Force is making these changes as the threats against the U.S. change. We must adapt to stay relevant into the future. I remain committed to ensure every one of our Airmen will have an opportunity to cross train into new missions as we modernize to remain relevant as the Illinois National Guard.”
Brig. Gen. Dan McDonough, who heads the Air Guard component for the state and a former 182nd commander, noted the 182nd’s long history of high performance within the military.
“Whatever it takes,” he said to retain the airmen. “The Airmen in the band are as a group the most educated individuals we have in the Illinois Air National Guard. Several have doctorates and masters degrees. The TACPs are the epitome of special warfare professionals.”
The Air Force said a few years ago it was planning on cutting the TACP community by 50% by 2025. Advances in technology have resulted in less airmen needed for the TACP missions. Also being eliminated are six National Guard bans plus two active duty and reserve bands.
Estimates have had the moves saving the Air Force $400 million or roughly 14% of their $30 billion annual budget.