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Families of students using assignment deferment program

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- Sixty-three Air Force families with a child who entered his or her senior year of high school this year will get to stay additional time at their current duty stations.

The High School Seniors Assignment Deferment Program allows senior master sergeants and below, and officers up through the rank of lieutenant colonel, to apply for a one-year assignment deferment. Back-to-back deferments may be possible and military-married-to-military spouses may also apply, said officials at the Air Force Personnel Center here.

Lt. Col. Joseph Wegner applied for the program and his 17-year-old daughter, Michelle, can now graduate with her classmates.

“We figured that in 12 years, Michelle had attended six different schools, so it was important to let her finish high school at the same school,” said the colonel who is the director of Air Force corrections for the Air Force Security Forces Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

Colonel Wegner said he wishes the program would have been in place when his oldest daughter, Molly, was a high-school senior a few years ago. He had to leave his family behind while he reported to a new assignment.

“I left the family in place for nine months so she could finish school,” the colonel said.

Officials said the mission comes first and will be the overriding factor in granting deferments.

Requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis, said Col. Jennifer Hesterman, chief of assignment programs and procedures at the personnel center.

"There's a balance between mission needs and helping our families, but our goal is to approve as many requests as possible,” she said. “We'll work with people as we always have."

To be eligible, the student must be a family member of, and living with, the Airman requesting the deferment; he or she must also be enrolled in the Defense Department's dependent enrollment system, Colonel Hesterman said.

Officers may apply before they receive an assignment, but enlisted members may apply only after receiving an assignment, said Master Sgt. Letty Inabinet, superintendent of assignment procedures and programs at the center.

When Master Sgt. Brian Burton, a single parent, received an assignment to Sheppard AFB, Texas, he applied for deferment because of his 17-year-old daughter, Briana.

“She wanted to graduate with her friends,” said Sergeant Burton, who is the superintendent of advanced distributed learning for Air Education and Training Command here. “Taking the assignment would have meant moving in the middle of the school year.”

Sergeant Burton said the process took about five weeks from application to approval.

Application requests that cannot be supported initially by the assignment noncommissioned officer or officer will be reviewed and validated by the respective AFPC assignment division chief for that Airman's career field.

Officials estimate that annually 20 to 25 percent of officers and senior NCOs have children entering their senior year of high school, and one third of those could be eligible for assignment in any given year.

For more information or to complete an application, Airmen should contact either the local military personnel flight or their commander's support staff.

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