You may understand this post a little better if you read the first blog I wrote about IA. For a less biased explanation, you can go to Wikipedia, which was just updated in December 2007.
The Navy is trying to rectify the fact that sailors are being sent to Iraq with no warning. An article came out in the Navy Times on Tuesday explaining what they hope to implement. The article is very informative, but here's the new plan in a nutshell: When a sailor comes up for his 3 years of shore duty, he will be given shore duty orders with the condition that his 1st year of the 3 he goes IA. Then when he returns, he will go to shore duty for 2 years, and then on to his sea duty rotation. And my understanding is that if he opts out of the IA/shore duty, he will be given another sea duty tour (that part isn't actually in the article, but that's what I've been told). The goal of this is to make IA more "volunteer" basis, instead of "voluntold" (which is often how it is now).
If it wasn't clear in my last post back in October, I'm fairly outraged by how this system is being handled, and it is good to see the Navy trying to bring some order to something that isn't pleasant for anyone. What I think I didn't totally realize until I read this article a few minutes ago is how close to home it may get. This article states that officials have identified the top 10 ratings most likely to be asked to take on an individual augmentee assignment. Dan's rating of fire controlman is one of them. Ironically, Dan's rate has been critically manned for years, which has limited our options every time we've moved. "Critically manned" means the Navy doesn't feel like they have enough of them, but this article even uses Dan's rate as an example saying, the head of personnel and allocation at Fleet Forces Command "must provide sailors in critical ratings, such as fire controlman, to both the fleet and the IA arena." Crazy stuff!
To answer Steph's question in her comment: Yes, you understand it perfectly. We don't know for sure what Dan will be offered, but if they are able to implement this before he's up for shore duty, it seems pretty likely. Both scenarios stink, but if we can be given the choice of Dan going to the ground in Iraq or not then we'll have more options than many other sailors have had (currently there are 13,000 Navy IA). We have to count our blessings.