The U.S. Air Force says that no airmen have been kicked out under the Defense Department's deploy-or-out policy since it took effect last year. And it adds that it has lowered the number of airmen who are ineligible for deployment due to injury, medical disability or other reasons this year.
The number of non-deployable total force airmen has fallen to 4.65% -- roughly 23,000 service members -- since the beginning of the year, according to recent statistics provided to Military.com. In January, that number was over 6.8%, or roughly 33,500 airmen, the service said. The new eligibility rate was first reported by Air Force Magazine earlier this month.
"There have not been any airmen removed from the Air Force under the non-deployable policy," the service said in an email Wednesday.
Last year, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced a new policy requiring each service to track and report non-deployable service members on a monthly basis to determine whether the troops were in a temporary or permanent status.
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The policy, known as DoD Instruction 1332.45 "Retention Determinations for Non-deployable Service Members," took effect Oct. 1.
To coincide with the policy, the Air Force in February issued new guidelines for active-duty, reserve and National Guard airmen considered non-deployable; officials immediately began flagging those airmen unable to deploy for 12 consecutive months for separation consideration.
Non-deployable airmen who hit the 12-month mark are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Troops with a treatable medical condition with expectation of recovery are considered temporarily non-deployable; those who have a medical condition that permanently prevents deployment or who are enrolled in the Disability Evaluation System are considered permanently non-deployable. Many factors are considered in both categories.
Since the policy took effect, officials have said that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how many service members are affected because the "temporarily non-deployable" list fluctuates on a daily basis.
Those on the temporary list make up the majority of non-deployable airmen, the Air Force said Wednesday. The list includes those whose deployability is delayed for medical, legal or administrative reasons.
The service said it has changed how it classifies the severity of medical conditions to better track when an airman can deploy again.
"A recent change to the Air Force's profiling process differentiates airmen on 'light duty' who are deployable from those with medical conditions that limit full duty and are temporarily non-deployable," officials said in the email.
Greater access to health care has been one factor propelling more airmen to be ready and fit for deployment.
"The [Air Force] is improving the primary-care case-management process to expedite airman care, focusing on getting them healthy quicker to support commander needs for readiness support," the service said.
In June, officials began working on a plan to reorganize its medical personnel teams in an effort to help airmen get healthy and off the non-deployable list.
The Air Force Medical Service announced it will start implementing a new structure under the "Air Force Medical Reform model," creating provider care teams aligned with an operational medical readiness squadron to help more airmen reach deployability status, according to a news release at the time.