Two new programs guide enlisted force shaping

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Air Force officials here announced Oct. 16 two additional enlisted programs to help support current force shaping efforts to reduce 40,000 active-duty Airmen.

The programs, a date of separation rollback and a limited active duty service commitment waiver, join the current tools of reducing the number of accessions into the enlisted force, career job reservations and the NCO retraining program.

"It's important for Airmen to understand why we are cutting 40,000 from our ranks," said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley. "We must recapitalize and modernize our force while staying within our budget constraints. Having the right number of people saves money, allowing us to divert those dollars to maintain our technological edge and make us an overall more efficient Air Force." 

The DOS rollback applies to enlisted Airmen with certain re-enlistment ineligibility codes or assignment availability codes. These individuals will be required to separate from the force by March 15, 2007. The DOS rollback specifically affects Airmen with less than 14 years or more than 20 years of service.

The LADSC Waiver Program allows retirement-eligible master and technical sergeants in overage AFSCs to have all or portions of an extension waived and voluntarily retire by Sept. 1, 2007. Waivers can be granted for extensions due to promotion, PCS, attending professional military education, technical training, Air Force educational leave of absence, and Bootstrap.

While the Air Force needs to implement these additional enlisted force shaping programs to help meet endstrength numbers, Chief McKinley stressed the goal remains to have a balanced force and to ensure the right people are in the right job at the right time.

"We would like it if we didn't have to do this, but there's no other place for us to get the money," said Chief McKinley. "We had to make this tough decision."

Force shaping initiatives affecting officers were announced earlier this year and Air Force officials continue to monitor the success of those programs.

"It's important to keep in mind what force shaping is all about: The present and future state of the Air Force," said Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady, deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel. "We have to balance our (force) for now and the coming years to have the kind of force we need to win the long war we are in now and be prepared for whatever comes next."

Unlike commissioned officers, enlisted Airmen are not being offered separation incentive pay because it's not currently authorized by law.

"Congress allows us to offer monetary incentives to officers, but there's no provision to pay enlisted Airmen," said Chief McKinley, "Back in the early '90s the Air Force was granted the authority to offer financial incentives to enlisted members. Today, we will work to reach our numbers through the current programs."

Chief McKinley stressed Airmen should fully understand the opportunities and implications of the force shaping initiatives. 

"Knowing the options in regard to retraining or special duty assignments can allow Airmen to remain in our Air Force and provide us with a balanced force to meet the demands of the current war and those in the future," the chief said. 

The chief has personal experience in meeting Air Force needs through retraining. He has held positions as a medical technician, aircraft mechanic and first sergeant.

"I love the Air Force and everything about it," he said. "It didn't matter to me which (air force specialty code) I was in -- I was going to do the best job I could do and serve my country. Airmen today are facing a similar situation and difficult choices. But if they want to continue serving in the U.S. Air Force, there may be ways for them to do that."

The chief also wants to ensure Airmen don't think the Air Force is just becoming a smaller force. 

"We are changing to become a leaner force, more capable of doing more things through streamlined processes and career fields," said Chief McKinley. "The Air Force as a whole is changing, and force shaping is a part of that."