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Palace Chase, Front offer alternatives to active duty

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Every year, thousands of individuals raise their right hand and commit to serve in the military as either enlisted members or officers. While some choose to serve for many years on active duty, others might elect to leave, but that doesn’t mean they can’t continue serving.

“When you make a decision as big as joining the military, you don’t know what you’re getting into,” said Master Sgt. Daniel D. Nichiporuk, an Air Force Reserve in-service recruiter. “Active duty isn’t for everyone.”

Whether an Airman’s life circumstances change or active duty simply isn’t a good fit, the Air Force offers two programs that allow members to continue serving part-time.

Palace Chase and Palace Front are both programs offered to active-duty officers and enlisted members, giving them the opportunity to transfer from active duty to an Air Reserve Component.

“This allows members to either leave the [active duty] Air Force early or transition directly after their contract and still serve in the military, still wear the uniform, still have great benefits, but be able to maybe settle down and start a family,” Nichiporuk said.

In both programs, Airmen transition from their full-time positions to traditional guardsmen and reservists, serving one weekend per month and two weeks per year.

Becoming a reservist has worked out well for Staff Sgt. Ryan, a 50th Intelligence Squadron geospatial intelligence analyst.

“I have been able to make more time for my business, as well as my girlfriend, as a result of being in the reserve,” Ryan said. “The unit is huge on supporting your goals.”

Ryan transferred using the Palace Chase program after serving 11 years on active duty.

The Palace Chase program is an early release program that allows active-duty Airmen to request to transfer to a reserve component, either the Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard.

“Everyone can apply for Palace Chase,” Nichiporuk said. “For people stationed here at Beale (AFB), it just comes down to time in service and to make sure they are eligible based off of [Air Force Instruction 36-3205].”

Airmen approaching the halfway mark of their first enlistment, or anytime in their subsequent enlistment, are able to apply. If accepted, the term of enlistment with the Guard or Reserve depends on the amount of time left on the initial active-duty contract.

Officers are eligible to apply two-thirds of the way into their time-in-service commitment. The remaining time left on their contract triples and is then served in a reserve component.

Nichiporuk said most of the disapprovals he has seen have been related to Air Force manning requirements. If the Air Force cannot afford to release a member due to the career field being undermanned, the request for Palace Chase will not be approved and the member must wait 120 days before reapplying.

On the other hand, the Palace Front program is not affected by manning requirements.

The Palace Front program is a transfer program that allows active-duty Airmen to transfer to a reserve component the day after their contract ends and separate from active duty.

After completing four years on active duty, Senior Airman Brandon, a 50th Intelligence Squadron geospatial intelligence analyst, used the Palace Front program to transfer directly to the Reserve.

“I still wanted to be associated with the military,” Brandon said. “The Palace Front program was the best option for me.”

Brandon said being a reservist has allowed him the flexibility to go back to school and get another job, but still keep his military benefits.

According to Nichiporuk, Airmen who take advantage of these programs typically keep their rank, but they don’t always keep their job.

Cross-training is not only an option, but sometimes mandatory. Depending on the availability of the positions at the particular base they wish to be stationed at, the members may stay in the same career field if it’s available or be retrained into something new.

If an Airman wants to stay in the Air Force, but active duty isn’t working out as planned, there are flexible alternatives to continue serving.

“It’s important for them to know all their options, because as you’re in the military, life happens,” Nichiporuk said.

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