Air Force Expands Base Preference Program to All Career Fields

FILE -- Airmen from the 4th Maintenance Group and 335th Fighter Squadron return from a deployment to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 23, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina (U.S. Air Force/Airman Shawna L. Keyes)
FILE -- Airmen from the 4th Maintenance Group and 335th Fighter Squadron return from a deployment to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 23, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina (U.S. Air Force/Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

The U.S. Air Force has expanded a program that makes it easier for enlisted airmen to transfer to a stateside base.

The Base of Preference (BOP) program will expand to all Air Force specialty codes (AFSC) starting next month, providing airmen who have 48 months' time on station as of May 2019, "the opportunity to apply for available permanent change-of-station assignments," according to an Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC) release.

"This final step in the initiative normalizes the process we began in April, simplifying the BOP application so airmen and commanders can make professional development and career decisions by aligning preferences with available requirements," said Ron Gallucci, AFPC Assignments Programs and Procedures program manager.

The Air Force began the experimental program last spring to improve and streamline how airmen are assigned to their next base.

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The initial phase included seven specialty codes: Logistics Plans (2G0X1), Materiel Management (2S0X1), RF Transmission Systems (3D1X3), Administration (3F5X1), Health Services Management (4A0X1), Contracting (6C0X1) and Financial Management and Comptroller (6F0X1).

The service added Pharmacy (4P0X1), Personnel (3F0X1) and Tactical Air Control Party (1C4X1) in July.

In the past, airmen would note their base of preference but wouldn't necessarily know whether there were vacancies or if their specialty code was in demand at a particular base.

Starting in January, AFPC will post stateside locations where Air Force openings exist, Gallucci said. It will be broken down "by skill level and Air Force specialty code on the assignment management system, similar to the overseas and overseas returnee/CONUS mandatory mover assignment cycles," he added.

First-term airmen -- or those who have yet to re-enlist -- must have an approved career job reservation prior to applying and must submit their applications before re-enlisting, the Air Force said.

"There is no minimum time on station for a [first-term airman] applying for an in-place [Base of Preference]," according to the personnel center. "However, an FTA who wishes to move, permanent change of station (PCS), under this program must complete 12 months [time on station] before the departure date. Individuals approved for a BoP are authorized a two-year assignment deferment."

The personnel center will send targeted messages directly to eligible airmen assigned to continental U.S. locations, including cut-off dates and links to submit their applications, the release said.

Should an assignment not be listed, it means there is "no available requirement in that AFSC" for that quarter, the personnel center said.

Airmen should update their profiles regularly, as well as their assignment preferences, based on the posted availabilities, the center said.

Officials for months have wanted a steadier pace for airmen and have tried a variety of new initiatives to help them and their families relocate or even deploy.

For example, the Air Force last year started giving some fighter pilots and aircrew the ability to stay in rotations longer at select commands and bases in an effort to create stability for airmen affected by the growing pilot shortage.

"This evolution provides transparency to commanders and airmen alike," Gallucci said. "It's important that AFPC remains agile, innovative, and responsive to airmen's needs and Air Force requirements."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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