The Air Force has begun its annual balancing act, asking people to move from
career fields top-heavy with midlevel noncommissioned officers to fields with
And if 1,100 staff sergeants, technical sergeants and master sergeants don't
raise their hands and step forward by Feb. 23, the service will begin an
involuntary phase, selecting people for retraining and choosing their new
careers for them.
Air Force officials do this yearly as career fields get out of tune. Some
people leave the service; some stay. Some get promoted; some don't. It all
upsets the equilibrium of career fields, known as Air Force Specialty Codes, or
For example, 88 technical sergeants and 42 master sergeants in aerospace
maintenance must change jobs because their AFSC is one of about 35 on the
"We do need them" in the Air Force. "We just don't need them in these
fields," said Chief Master Sgt. Alvin Diaz, chief of the skills management
branch at the Air Force Personnel Center, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.
Staff Sgt. Clinton Minor, Air Force enlisted retraining manager at the Air
Force Personnel Center, said the service rarely has to resort to the
involuntary phase. But it did last year, after just 1,200 people volunteered
when 1,400 were required to change jobs. Minor thinks last year's involuntary
phase might provide impetus for people to volunteer this year.
"Now that they know this program is for real … we're hoping that people will
help us out," he said.
Diaz said, "We want them to be the ones" to make the decision, "rather than
for us to select them. If we have to, we'll do it."
By deadline Tuesday, the Air Force had not provided the number of Pacific Air
Forces airmen identified for retraining but a handful have been tagged at
Yokota and Misawa air bases in Japan.
At Misawa, 10 people are on the list, from career fields such as aircrew
protection, aerospace maintenance, civil engineering, medical and vehicle
maintenance, said Master Sgt. Yvette Wilhite, superintendent of relocations for
the Military Personnel Flight.
While some have asked about the retraining program, no one yet has
volunteered, she said.
"One wanted to see ... options; another, he doesn't want anything to do with
it," said Staff Sgt. Daniel F. Lowe, Yokota's noncommissioned-officer-in-charge
of formal training and retraining.
Said Wilhite, "Their main concern is, 'What's going to happen if I don't
volunteer?' We can't tell them what's going to happen. Well, you could be one
of those selected for involuntary retraining."
If needed, the involuntary phase will run from March 8 to April 26.
Senior Airman Octivia Carswell, a retraining counselor with Yokota's 374th
Mission Support Squadron, said during this period, people would be returned to
their secondary career field "if they have one and if there's a need in that
career field." Otherwise, "They'll be forced to retrain into whatever the Air
At Yokota, one of the six people identified "has come in to set up an
appointment to apply for retraining," Carswell said.
Those who volunteer for retraining can request up to five "open" career
fields, Carswell said.
But, she said, "it's just a request."
Retraining into a new career field almost guarantees a stateside assignment,
a concern voiced by several Misawa NCOs, Lowe said.
"They don't want to go back to the States," he said.
Lowe tells them to sit tight to see if there will be an involuntary phase.
"There's no sense in them jumping the ship if they don't want to go back to
the States," he said.
Not everyone in top-heavy fields is at risk. The Air Force targets people
through such criteria as date of rank, time on station and their DEROS date, or
date of estimated return from overseas.
The Air Force tags people approaching their DEROS, leaving newcomers out of
PACAF and USAFE are looking at people with a DEROS of August 2004 and sooner,
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