Airmen and Guardians: Now You Can Reenlist Sooner—and for Longer

The Department of the Air Force will now let Airmen and Guardians reenlist up to year ahead of their end of service date, one of several moves designed to boost retention and give troops more career flexibility.

The changes are in the latest revisions to DAFI 36-2606, which lays out the rules for reenlisting and extending enlistment contracts. They were released on May 31. 

Until now, second-term and career Airmen and Guardians had to wait until they were just 90 days from the end of their active service obligation to reenlist.

“The update maximizes opportunities for Airmen and Guardians to reenlist by allowing them to do so up to 12 months before their expiration term of service, giving them more time to decide to reenlist,” the department said in a release. 

First-term Airmen and Guardians already could reenlist up to a year before their initial enlistment ended—provided they are approved to do so based on the needs of their Air Force or Space Force Specialty Code. These changes make that standard for everyone.  

Among other moves, the department simplified the terms of reenlistment and increased the maximum service obligation from 72 months to 96 months—eight years—when combined with their remaining obligated service.

The move suggests retention is beginning to lag, and follows other recent steps intended to increase reenlistment rates. Last week, for example, the service announced that more career fields are now eligible for reenlistment bonuses. It also raised the maximum bonus by 80 percent, from $100,000 to up to $180,000 starting Oct. 1. 

In December, the Air Force said it had loosened its “up-or-out” rules, adding two years to the maximum time in service allowed at every enlisted paygrade up to E-8. 

The shift is not unprecedented, however. In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the enlisted retention rate hit a 20-year high of 91.1 percent. Since then, the rate has floated downward, to 89.4 percent in 2022 and 89 percent in 2023, according to reports. 

Lt. Gen. Caroline M. Miller, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, acknowledged in written testimony to Congress last month, that “officer and enlisted personnel retention rates continue to decline—[but] less than a percentage point per year.” 

While Miller noted that the declines are in line with pre-pandemic numbers, she said the service is increasing its 2024 recruiting goal in response to those and “potential future retention trend declines.” 

“The change is part of a larger force management strategy that involves additional retention programs designed to deliver the right number of Airmen to match future force structure,” Miller wrote.