Thinning the ranks: Not enough airmen voluntarily left the Air Force by the May 31 deadline, so 600 must be involuntarily separated from the service by the end of the fiscal year. Of that number, 250 have already been targeted as meeting 'mandatory' separation criteria. (Air Force)
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WAYS TO GET OUT
In addition to date-of-separation rollbacks, the Air Force has been offering voluntary early outs to airmen to reduce its force. Among them: waivers for active-duty service commitments and time in service, and Palace Chase transfers, which allow airmen to serve out their remaining service commitment in the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve.
Not enough airmen have volunteered to leave this year, and now 1,700 are at risk of being forced out under a new round of date of separation rollbacks.
The cuts will continue to affect the careers of airmen with nonjudicial punishment in their files, and those who have refused training or permanent change of station orders as the service continues to thin its ranks, said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody.
“People who have put themselves in a situation where their performance or their behavior has been less than that required of the standards of service are going to be the first who we’re going to have to consider and probably no longer allow to serve,” Cody said in a June 13 phone interview.
“People would like to say our Air Force is targeting them, but what really has happened is these airmen who have done these types of things have made themselves candidates for these programs,” Cody said
The early exits come with a payout for airmen with at least six but fewer than 20 years of service: They can collect half-separation pay, provided they sign on with the Individual Ready Reserve. That amounts to about $10,000 for staff sergeants with six years of service.
The Air Force needs to trim 600 airmen through DOS rollbacks before Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. The service has already identified about 250 who must go because of a negative mark in their record, said Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley, an Air Force spokeswoman. Commanders will decide whether other airmen on the list should stay or leave early.
With record-high retention and a tight budget, Cody said the Air Force can no longer afford to keep airmen who have gotten into trouble.
“We’re a quality force,” Cody said. “While there may have been times, and certainly have been times in the history of the Air Force, where certain types of behavior would not have rendered you in a position where you would likely not be able to stay in the Air Force, that’s not today, and that’s not likely in the future.”
Since January, Air Force leaders have known they needed to cut 3,340 airmen from the force by Sept. 30 to reach an end strength of 329,460, as required by Congress in the defense authorization bill.
Efforts to reduce the force began in February, when the Air Force put out a call for volunteers to take advantage of service commitment waivers and other incentives to leave.
By mid-April, 450 airmen had exited the Air Force under the voluntary measures. Updated numbers were not available at press time.
Also in February — one week after the voluntary program was announced — the service began its first round of DOS rollbacks for 2013. By mid-April, about 1,700 of the 4,300 eligible airmen had left under the accelerated separation. Air Force officials could not say how many airmen were forced out by the May 31 deadline, but previously said the decision to initiate a second DOS rollback in 2013 would depend on how many left during the first round.
Air Force officials announced the second DOS rollback June 12. The program is designed to speed up the date of separation for select airmen in paygrades E-8 or below who have fewer than 14 years or more than 20 years of total active federal military service.
To be eligible, airmen must have a planned date of separation of Sept. 20 or later. Retirees must have a planned date of separation of Aug. 31 or later and must submit their retirement request by July 2.
As in the previous phase of the rollback program, airmen who have one or more of the following in their record will automatically be separated by Sept. 20:
■Refused retainability, such as declining permanent change-of-station orders.
■Were previously denied re-enlistment.
■Are waiting discharge for cause.
Under the first phase, commanders had discretion to decide the fate of airmen with five days lost time on their current enlistment for such things as being absent without leave or serving time in confinement, but this time they will only be able to make decisions about airmen who:
■Are serving on a suspended Article 15.
■Are serving on a control roster.
■Have had an Article 15 or grade reduction.
Airmen with five lost days will be automatically separated, Tingley said.
As has been the case in previous years, airmen with at least 180 days of active-duty service who are separated under the rollback program will receive transition assistance benefits, which include six months of extended medical care for the member and their families and an ID card for access to the base commissary and exchange for two years, according to the Air Force Personnel Center.
Airmen separated under the rollback program won't be required to return unearned portions of bonuses, special pays or other monetary incentives. Those who meet the Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility requirements and are honorably discharged will not have their benefits affected.
Last year, the Air Force forced 2,153 airmen to leave under the DOS rollback. Of the airmen separated under the 2102 DOS rollback, 900 were E-1s, E-2s or E-3s, 666 were E-4s, 535 were E-5s and 52 were E-6s.
Cody said it is imperative airmen perform well and stay out of trouble to continue in an Air Force that will be smaller in the future.
“You need to work hard, do your job, do the best you can every day and be willing to do what our Air Force needs you to do,” he said. “If you don’t do those things, you could find yourself in a very undesirable position where we might tell you that you are no longer able to serve.”■