Recruiters encouraging unit Reservists to consider IMA program

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Chance Babin

With Air Force Reserve Command’s end-strength increasing by 2,100 Airmen from fiscal year 2015 to 2016, Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Service is striving to meet its goal of 8,500 accessions for FY16. One strategy recruiters are using involves trying to get people to transfer from the unit program to the individual mobilization augmentee program.

Unlike traditional Reservists who serve one weekend a month and two weeks a year, IMAs, who are assigned to active-duty Air Force units, respond to a training schedule based on the needs of the host organization. IMAs are assigned to funded positions and participate with the host organization for 24 to 48 training periods each year. Oftentimes, they complete their annual training requirements all at once. And IMAs, just like their unit Reservist counterparts, receive military pay, benefits and retirement points.

With the unit program, consisting of air reserve technicians and traditional Reservists, currently at 107 percent manning and the IMA program at 86 percent manning, the Recruiting Service is implementing a plan to target Reservists in overage positions and attempt to get them to consider opportunities in the IMA program.

“In the middle of 2015, key leaders from the Air Reserve Personnel Center, Headquarters Readiness and Integration Organization and Recruiting Service collaborated together in order to target the under-execution of the IMA program,” said Capt. Robert Bruce, Recruiting Service chief of operations and training at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. “With end-strength on the rise, the Recruiting Service hired eight seasoned recruiters (two per squadron) to specifically target key vacancies in an effort to robust IMA manning while at the same time effectively manning AFRC.”

One of the critical-skills recruiters working this issue is Master Sgt. Tracey Barry of Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, who has been highly involved at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida. Working with leaders of the 482nd Fighter Wing at Homestead, Barry began talking to Reservists during their drill weekends about the IMA program. Her main targets were members in the medical field.

“Homestead gave me full support across the board,” she said. “I set up a table in the chow hall at lunch and had folks who had an interest in seeing if there were any opportunities in the IMA world to sign up for a meeting.”

For many, the IMA program is an attractive option since it offers greater flexibility when completing inactive duty training. Barry said at Homestead a lot of the traditional Reservists travel three or four hours, sometimes longer, for unit training assembly weekends. In addition to flexibility, the IMA program offers many other advantages, she said.

“Force development opportunities, promotions, the opportunity to complete all annual requirements in one shot, possibly working closer to home and getting more job experience” are all benefits of the IMA program, Barry said. “Medical people want to expand their job knowledge by working with an active-duty unit, giving them an opportunity to work in an emergency room or dental clinic.”

As of Feb. 29, Barry said she had 43 traditional Reservists who were interested in making the switch to the IMA program, with 26 being from Homestead’s medical group.

The sergeant said having critical-skills recruiters involved in the process of working the packages for Airmen wanting to transfer from the unit to the IMA program takes a lot of work off of the shoulders of members of the force support squadron.

 “The undermanned force support squadrons love the fact that the critical-skills team is working these packages,” she said. “It takes a load off their hands.”

Traditional Reservists who move to the IMA program are filling critical vacancies.

“Historically, (each year) the Air Force Reserve Command loses 13.5 percent of its end-strength,” Bruce said. “When end-strength grows by 2,100 bodies, as it did from FY15 to FY16, it’s even more crucial to ensure we don’t exceed that rate. This is why the Recruiting Service, the Readiness and Integration Office and traditional Reserve units must work together to find ways to keep our force healthy.  By working together, we can find force development opportunities and hopefully retain as many qualified Airmen as possible as we work toward 100 percent effective manning.”

For information on becoming an IMA, contact your local recruiter.

(Babin is the public affairs NCO for the Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Service at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.)