The Air Force has roughly tripled the number of job specialties for which it is offering reenlistment bonuses in 2016, adding to last year's list of almost entirely combat-specific career fields roles intended to meet demands of a growing force.
The service is adding several thousand more airmen to 2016 accessions, but it needs to ensure things run smoothly as the force grows, according to Col. Robert Romer, the Air Force's chief of military force policy.
"We are increasing our accessions and training pipeline to support the increased growth, but these new enlistees won't be seasoned for some time," he said. "Retaining the experience we have is critical to our success in reaching target end strength."
A decade ago, with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Air Force had expanded to include 359,000 active-duty airmen. While the number has since dropped to about 313,000, the service is looking at a minimum active-duty force in 2016 of 317,000, the figure proposed in President Barack Obama's budget request.
This year, the Air Force is offering selective reenlistment bonuses, or SRBs, of up to $90,000 to airmen in 117 job specialties.
The much shorter 2015 list was heavy on combat skills and systems, with bonuses offered to pararescue (Air Force Specialty Code 1T2X1) combat control (1C2X1) and tactical air control party airmen (1C4X1), critical cyber and intelligence specialties (1B4X1), as well as enlisted aviation specialties for the F-22 Raptor (2A3X5A), F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (2A375B), B-52 Stratofortress (2A5X4D), B-2 Spirit (2A5X4F) and CV-22 Osprey (2A5X2D).
The bonuses are available to those same battlefield airmen and enlisted aviation airmen, as well as those in remotely piloted aircraft maintenance and aerospace propulsion, and cyber.
"The Air Force weighed undermanning, experience levels, retention trends and training costs across all Air Force specialty codes to determine the FY16 Selective Reenlistment Bonus list," the Air Force said in a statement on Wednesday. "Some of the more acute career fields include special operations, explosive ordnance disposal, tactical air control party, cryptological language analysts, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance."
Career fields in particular need of maintaining experience as the force grows once more include maintenance, cyber, and variety of other support areas.
Yet the Air Force is also looking to retain airmen who meet the immediate, daily needs of other airmen, offering bonuses to dental assistants (4Y0X1) and dental hygienists (4Y0X1H); ophthalmologists (4V0X1S); pharmacists (4P0X1); specialists in financial management (6F0X1); heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (3E1X1); pavement and construction equipment (3E2X1); and water and fuel systems maintenance (3E4X1).
"As the Air Force increases accessions and the training pipeline to support the increased growth, it is critical to retain key experience while these new Airmen are trained and seasoned over time," it said in the statement.