IG program defined

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Using the chain-of-command in the military is an integral part of any Air Force organization, and Airmen learn about the concept as early as their first day in basic military training.

While many Airmen use of the chain-of-command properly to handle issues throughout their careers, sometimes an issue is so big it Airmen feel it can only be handled by the Inspector General.

The primary purpose of the IG is to address stressors that hinder an environment conducive to efficient work. This can be done by reaching solutions to problems that cannot be fixed through the chain of command.

"The Air Force IG complaints system exists to help facilitate an effective resolution to Airmen's grievances and issues that may distract them from carrying out their duties," Lt. Col. Dai Cho, 52nd Fighter Wing Inspector General, said. "Members may come across a variety of (distressing) situations, and they don't know who to see for the appropriate assistance. Some situations may require an external agency; the Air Force IG Complaints Resolution system exists to provide potential resolution options so that the issues can be effectively and promptly addressed."

The IG uses a system that takes a route other than the chain-of-command to address problems that affect not only Airmen, contractors and civilians who work on an installation, but also their families.

"The IG Complaints Resolution process and the Fraud, Waste and Abuse program provides Airmen and their families an established channel to report violations of law, Air Force policies and allegations of injustice or wrongdoing," he said. "IG personnel will accept allegations, conduct a thorough and objective complaint analysis and then determine the best suited resolution path."

Once a complaint has been submitted to the IG, it can take one of four avenues; it will either be labeled as referral, transfer, dismiss or assist. A referral acknowledges the existence of an issue, a transfer appropriates the complaint to the right level, a dismissal has no recognizable problem, and an assist shows no evidence of wrongdoing but still provides some help.

With such a complex system present at so many different offices across the Air Force and the Department of Defense, there can be some misconceptions about it. To use the service to its maximum potential, it's important to understand it well, Colonel Cho said.

"The first misconception is Air Force IG personnel are mainly responsible for conducting inspections within compliance and operational readiness," he said. "A major part of the Air Force IG system is the Complaints Resolution and Fraud, Waste and Abuse programs. The second misconception is that a formal complaint filed with the IG office will answer a complainant's particular situation or that the disclosure of going to the IG may influence a favorable outcome in dealing with the chain-of-command. The third misconception is that filing an IG complaint will result in a prompt resolution. A prompt resolution may be possible through IG channels. Other times, the complaint may require referral to another support agency or the issue may be referred to the complainant's chain of command. The fourth misconception is that filing an IG complaint may stop or slow down any administrative or disciplinary action in motion."

The IG office plays a role unlike any others on an installation, and, simply put, it's important that Airmen and their family members take advantage of the service if necessary.

"When people are distressed about an issue, they sometimes lose focus on their families and the mission," Tech. Sgt. Holly Williams, deputy inspector general, said. "Our office can help resolve these issues when Airmen think they have exhausted their options."

Even if the complaint is dismissed and doesn't fit the bill as an item the office can assist with, it's still a good idea to visit the organization, Sergeant Williams added.

"Calling us or stopping by doesn't necessarily mean you have to file a formal complaint. If you have a problem and you wonder if the IG program is right for you, give us a call -- we're always happy to answer questions."