First-Term Airmen Can Retrain More Easily Under New Policy Aimed at Retention

The Air Force wants to make it easier for Airmen in their first term of enlistment to retrain into another career field, under a new policy that lifts some of the hoops that were previously involved in the process. 

Starting June 1, first-term Airmen can retrain into any Air Force Specialty Code they qualify for that is under 90 percent manned prior to separation, even if the AFSC they currently belong to is below 90 percent manned, according to a press release published April 28.

Airmen who decide to pursue another career field will no longer have to undergo a First-Term Airman Retaining Selection Board, which should make for a more streamlined “first in, first out” process, the release explained. However, Airmen must still be within their retaining window and meet the relevant medical and Air Force Enlisted Classification Directory standards, Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery score, and physical fitness standards.

The first phase of the first-term Airmen retraining quotas will be open to all such airmen entering their retraining window during fiscal year 2024. The policy will be reassessed a year from now, on June 1, 2024, unless it is rescinded earlier, the press release said.

“Providing these opportunities for our Airmen helps us keep talent on the bench,” Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass said in the press release. “While this particular change impacts first-term Airmen, expect to see more initiatives like this as we evolve our policies and talent management to focus on the force of the future and building the Air Force our nation needs.”

The new policy comes as the Air Force struggles to hit its recruitment goals. The service expects a 10 percent shortfall this year in the Active Air Force and a greater gap in the Guard and Reserve. Officials say some of the challenges include a low unemployment rate and a declining propensity to serve. On the flip side, the Air Force generally enjoys strong retention levels.

“Retention numbers look very good,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said in March. “We’re keeping the people that we get, but we need to get more people.”