Talking About a New Generation of Airmen

Talking About a New Generation of Airmen: Today’s Air Force comprises young, tech savvy airmen—the “millennial generation” —who have different quality of life preferences than previous generations, and this will have to be understood as the Air Force transitions to a smaller, leaner manpower footprint, the Air Staff’s top manpower officer told attendees at AFA’s Air & Space Conference Monday afternoon. “I grew up in an Air Force family,” said Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones said, noting his father was a boom operator on a KC-135. “But I did not join the same Air Force my dad did,” he said, adding and neither have the young people who have signed up over the last decade. Jones noted 74 percent of airmen in USAF today are under 43 years old, and as such they think and act differently and have different quality of life preferences and priorities as far as service benefits and incentives. The force has shrunk to its smallest size since the end of the Cold War, Jones noted, but at the same time, as it closes in on its authorized end strength of 332,000, the cost of manpower is going up—which he termed worrisome. He noted that USAF manpower has shrunk 34 percent in that time, but has grown 23 percent more costly. With that in mind, Jones said he wants to protect accessions, prevent career bathtubs, and make sure the right people stay in—and get out. “In order to protect your seed corn, you have to tell people to get out,” he said. USAF is at a 17 year high as far as retention goes, the challenge to getting to the right end strength is balancing voluntary, incentive-based separations with involuntary separation costs, he noted.