KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The Air Force plans to more than double the number of enlisted career fields eligible to receive re-enlistment bonuses, from 10 to 23, the service announced late Thursday.
The goal is to increase personnel by about 4,000 while retaining airmen in critical mission areas that are understaffed.
The expanded pool addresses shortages in areas such as maintenance, signals intelligence and mental health. The bonuses vary, depending on career field, years of service and other factors. They target certain skill sets and time in grade and aren’t necessarily available to all airmen within the career field.
A number of the career fields new to the 2015 selective re-enlistment bonus list are intended to retain airmen with key maintenance experience. The Air Force had intended to switch some maintenance positions from the A-10 to the F-35. But with plans now to keep the A-10 for at least a couple more years, the Air Force has to retain enough maintainers for the A-10 platform, said Rose Richeson, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon.
Career fields that remain on the list from 2014 include explosive ordnance disposal, cyberspace and special operations.
The Air Force is planning for an end-strength of 317,000 by the end of fiscal 2016, an increase of about 4,000 active-duty airmen, according to figures outlined in President Barack Obama’s budget proposal, Richeson said.
“All of these career fields are challenged to retain experienced mid-level” airmen, Col. Arch Burns, Air Force Personnel Center director, was quoted as saying in a news release. Re-enlistment bonuses will be offered to airmen “in critical and emerging career fields with high operations demands and low manning that still require attention,” Burns said. (A full list of career fields eligible for the bonuses can be found at the Air Force Personnel Center website.
Richeson said, in addition to bonuses for re-enlisting, the Air Force is applying numerous methods to increase the overall manning of these career fields, including increased accessions, retraining and other retention programs.
She provided the following breakdown of which career fields the Air Force expects to see increases in, for both officers and enlisted personnel:
- 900 more airmen to support the nuclear enterprise. The fiscal 2016 budget proposal requests 174 officers and 739 enlisted positions. Career fields with the largest gains included helicopter/rescue pilot, special mission aviation, nuclear munitions and security forces.
- 400 additional airmen for the MQ-9 Reaper program, to increase Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capacity.
- 600 F-15C positions. The adjustment enables the Air Force to continue the F-15C mission at RAF Lakenheath.
- 200 cyber jobs.