AF Eliminating Reenlistment Bonuses in 46 Fields

A U.S. Air Force Airman prepares to marshall a HH-60G Pave Hawk at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Nov. 22, 2013.

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- The Air Force is eliminating selective reenlistment bonuses for 46 career fields and cutting retraining opportunities for hundreds of airmen in over-manned specialties as the service prepares to trim the force by as many as 25,000 airmen over the next several years.

The personnel policy changes, announced late Tuesday, will be implemented in short order. Airmen in career fields with canceled reenlistment bonuses have only until Dec. 4 to re-sign and still receive the monetary incentive typically used to encourage retention in their careers. The affected jobs range from aircraft loadmasters to dental hygienists.

Airmen previously had 30 days to reenlist from the date a career was removed from the program and still be eligible for a bonus.

Meanwhile, retraining classes in 35 or more occupations, scheduled for Jan. 1 or later, will be canceled, according to Air Force officials, a change that could affect as many as 1,000 airmen preparing for a career change.

The Air Force is decreasing retraining opportunities because of budget uncertainty, officials said.

The cuts to re-signing bonuses and retraining opportunities come on the heels of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III's recent testimony before Congress that the long-term effects of sequestration could force the service to cut about 25,000 airmen over the next several years.

"We anticipate having to have a smaller force," said Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon, on Wednesday. "We are starting that planning now."

The Air Force, however, doesn't know the exact number of personnel reductions that will have to be made, officials said. Those figures are expected to be released in President Obama's fiscal 2015 budget to Congress, sometime in the spring.

But those anticipated reductions require "aggressive force management measures," Brig. Gen. Gina Grosso, director of force management policy, said in a news release Tuesday.

The service's selective reenlistment bonus program will be whittled down to about 10 eligible career fields. These include jobs with a high operations tempo and low manning, such as explosive ordnance disposal, combat control, pararescue, some cyberspace and intelligence specialties and tactical air control party.

The selective reenlistment bonus program is "a retention tool," Grosso said in the release. "As the force gets smaller, skills that were under-manned are no longer short and we are adjusting the bonus program accordingly."

As of Dec. 5, airmen not in high-demand, understaffed career fields won't be eligible for a re-signing bonus. Those include: in-flight refueling, air traffic control, broadcast journalist, pharmacy, contracting, special investigations, mental health service, weather, vehicle management and analysis, engineering, public health, airfield management, and others.

Airmen also won't be able to request accelerated selective-reenlistment bonuses, the Air Force notes in the release.

The career fields removed from the list of jobs that airmen can retrain into were not provided on Wednesday. Air Force officials said in a news release that 35 or more Air Force jobs would be removed from the "retraining-in list," and may affect as many as 1,000 airmen.

Retraining classes scheduled for Jan. 1 or later will be canceled, and affected airmen will be notified, Joe Crady, the Air Force retraining chief, said in the release.

"We don't plan to cancel classes for airmen who are already en route or within 45 days of their class start date, since that would be very disruptive for them and could create a hardship," Crady was quoted in the release. Crady said limited fields were still open for retraining. Air Force officials at the Pentagon could not say Wednesday what those jobs were.

First-term airmen affected by the retraining cancelations are entitled to a career job reservation in their current field, according to Air Force officials. Tingley said career job reservations allow the Air Force to control the number of first-term airmen reenlisting in fields where projected manning levels exceed the needs of the Air Force. An airman needs a career job reservation in order to reenlist, she said.

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