The U.S. Air Force is reviewing the possibility of extending the time staff sergeants may serve in that rank on active duty before they face separation.
During a recent town hall with airmen at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the chief master sergeant of the Air Force, addressed a rumor that staff sergeants would be allowed to extend their service from 15 years to 20.
"You guys heard about that? You think it's a good idea? Absolutely, it's a good idea," Wright said. A video of his speech surfaced on the Facebook page Air Force Amn/Nco/Snco, which is popular with airmen but is not run by the service.
"We have a little bit more work to do. ..." he said Friday. "We like to do a little bit of data analysis, we want to make sure we do the correct research, we want to make sure we understand the second- and third-order effects before we pull the trigger."
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"The Air Force is reviewing its current High Year of Tenure policies to determine whether or not they are still appropriate for our force structure and operating environment not only for today but in the future," Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Military.com on Monday.
"Force management policies such as High Year of Tenure have multiple second- and third-order impacts, requiring a deliberate and careful analysis," she said in a statement. "The review and analysis we're conducting will help inform any potential changes that may or may not be applied to the entire force or whether or not a more targeted strategy is required."
Wright said the effort could spur more retention opportunities. He added the change may eventually extend to technical sergeants, allowing them to serve 22 years, up from the current 20-year limit.
"The thing I don't want to do is create a jam from a promotion standpoint, or the longer we allow people to stay in, the fewer the opportunities there are for promotions for the folks from the level below them," he said. "However, I think it [the impact] will be minimal."
To improve readiness in the force, the Air Force last year opened up a voluntary extension for high-year tenure opportunities to enlisted airmen in career fields such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; maintenance; nuclear; cyber; and special operations.
"The Air Force needs to ensure experienced airmen are available to complete the mission as well as train new airmen," Col. Erik Bovasso, Air Force Personnel Center Military Sustainment and Transitions Programs division chief, said last year. "This purposeful empowerment places the approval authority and responsibility at the right level, with commanders who know their mission and airmen best."