Air Force Unveils New Changes to Officer Special Duty Assignments

U.S. Air Force Maj. Thomas Martin, 37th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, briefs Air Force ROTC cadets on a T-6 Texan II static display during the fifth annual Pathways to Blue on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, April 5, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kemberly Groue)
U.S. Air Force Maj. Thomas Martin, 37th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, briefs Air Force ROTC cadets on a T-6 Texan II static display during the fifth annual Pathways to Blue on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, April 5, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kemberly Groue)

The Air Force is launching a new process for selecting officers for instructor and recruiter special duty assignments -- one that mirrors the process for enlisted airmen.

The Air Force on Thursday unveiled its updated special duty selection program in an effort to reform how the service manages talent across the force.

The service will now nominate and select airmen through a board review process, and an airman’s special duty assignment will be considered during an upcoming promotion, officials said.

“[Developing] exceptional leaders has to start with recruiting, training and developing the right airmen,” Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, told reporters. “All airmen have a responsibility to nurture and develop the next generation of airmen.”

“We need to and have been consistently evaluating and, when needed, modifying the way we manage, the way we develop, the way we assign and promote our airmen to get everyone … to meet his or her full potential,” Kelly added during an interview at the Pentagon. “To move that concept along, we’re going to do the same thing on the officer side and create an officer instructor and recruiting special duty program. We’ll follow the same tenets and same method that we did for the enlisted folks.”

For officers, available special duty assignments include instructor positions at the Officer Training School, and within Reserve Officer Training Corps, the Professional Military Education program and Air Force Academy faculty. They also include jobs that have a functional “T-prefix” Air Force Specialty Code, or a formal training instructor position within initial skills training or formal school houses, said Maj. Nick Mercurio, spokesman for the service. Recruiting positions apply to any recruiting squadron in the Air Force, Mercurio said.

Beginning this month, the Air Force will issue guidance on how leaders can nominate airmen in their units for the assignments. The plan is to identify senior officers who could serve in these jobs and recommend them for board review, Kelly said.

“Being an instructor or recruiter helps to shape the future force, but, in the past, we have not rewarded officers who do this important work,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in a released statement. “We gave it lip service. We’re changing that. This is just one more part of our effort to improve the way we develop, assign, evaluate and promote airmen.”

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The Air Force is asking commanders at the wing or major command level to nominate 15 percent of their airmen they believe are eligible for the jobs, the service said. Eligibility factors could include time in service or whether an airman is coming up on a new duty assignment, Kelly said.

The new process is not an expansion, officials said, nor will it impact the number of instructor or recruiting requirements for the officer community.

Currently, the service has 3,500 billets set aside for these duties. The Air Force could not say how many of those positions are actually filled by press time.

“We’ll have our commanders, our senior raters, identify officers of the right competence and character to serve in these key jobs,” Kelly said, referring to those leaders who create and submit airman evaluations. Senior raters are required to endorse their officers in order for their applications to be submitted to the central board, the service said.

An airman can volunteer, but a commander has the discretion to put the nomination forward, Kelly said.

“We’re going to count on [commanders] to balance the right needs of the overall Air Force versus the needs of their wing,” Kelly said. “We trust our commanders … some of our commanders are trusted with the most deadly weapons on the face of the planet, so we think they’ll understand the balance between their wing’s mission and the overall institutional responsibility.”

Leadership will submit the evaluations of the volunteers and nominees to a central board which will review and identify the officers for either the instructor or recruiter assignments and whittle the list down to the best potential candidates, he said.

“They’ll end up coming out on a list, similar to a list we’ve seen for eligibility for squadron commander, or other key duties … that we’ll pick from,” Kelly said. “Further, we’ll ask our functional teams, the folks in each of our career fields, to do a similar process for how they select who is going to go to their training schools.”

These schools are required for technical training instructor positions for specific career fields. That could include jobs such as intelligence or cyber instructors, or even pilot instructors.

An airman’s service will be noted during future promotion evaluations, Kelly said.

Job perks that can come with special duty assignments include deployment exemptions; wherever possible, two-year assignments or tailored tour lengths that an airman feels suits his or her needs; choice of school for Reserve Officer Training Corps assignments; and, depending on career field, a choice for follow-on assignment preferences, Kelly said.

“Not everyone is going to be a good instructor. Not everyone is going to be a good recruiter. But we certainly want to place value [on] and raise the value of [these assignments] in the enterprise,” Kelly said.

“As we move forward, will only select those officers who demonstrate the highest character and competence,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a statement. “Our officers who serve in formal instructor and recruiting positions gain tremendous insight and leadership development as they invest in our next generation of warfighters.”

Officers interested in applying should log into the MyVECTOR website and update their initial preferences.

The application window will open April 15 and close May 24.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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