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Air Force eases officer education requirements

Aug. 22, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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The Air Force will no longer consider advanced academic degrees when Line of the Air Force officers are up for promotion to lieutenant colonel and below.

But LAF officers who hope to make colonel must have an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree, to be eligible for promotion, the Air Force said in an Aug. 19 announcement.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the changes were made to clarify expectations, and correct a long-standing perception that most officers must complete an advanced degree to be promoted.

The Air Force also wants younger officers to focus on their job performance, and pursue an advanced degree only when the timing is right for their life, career and family.

“Since job performance is the most important factor when evaluating an officer for promotion, the decision to delay completion of an advanced academic degree will not affect their ability to serve a full career in the Air Force,” Welsh said in a news release.

The new degree rules will take effect Dec. 1, when the promotion board for LAF majors convenes.

Welsh first announced that the Air Force was planning to require aspiring colonels to have advanced degrees at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in February.

Less distance learning

The Air Force also wants to debunk a lasting misconception that officers selected to attend professional military education in-residence must also finish the same level of PME by correspondence. Some erroneously believed that if officers complete PME by using distance learning, they have shown more initiative and are more competitive for job opportunities and promotions, the announcement said.

The Air Force said that’s incorrect and airmen should focus on their job performance and better using their time.

“We realize how valuable time is, and want to give that time back to our officer corps,” Welsh said.

To change that, the Air Force will now prohibit officers who have been selected for developmental education from finishing a distance learning course, unless they are later picked to attend a program that requires a distance learning course to get full joint PME credit.

Also, every active-duty captain will now be able to attend Squadron Officer School in residence, the Air Force said. Captains now will not be allowed to take the distance learning course for Squadron Officer Schoolunless they cannot attend the school because they are deployed or are otherwise engaged in an operation, and are within one year of meeting the major promotion board.

The Squadron Officer School website also said that effective July 31, active-duty line officers will be prohibited from enrolling in the school’s distance learning course until they have seven years of total active federal commissioned service. Also, active-duty LAF-Judge Advocates, chaplains and nurse corps will not be allowed to enroll until they have three years time-in-grade as a captain. Medical service corps and biomedical sciences corps officers can’t enroll until they have two years time-in-grade as a captain, and active-duty medical corps and dental corps can enroll on or after their date of rank to captain.

Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve officers will still be able to attend the distance learning course for Squadron Officer School, the Air Force said.

“We understand our airmen are challenged every day to accomplish the mission with limited time, manpower and resources,” Welsh said. “By eliminating these perceived expectations, we hope to remind our officers that job performance is what we value most, and that we want them to have a life away from work.”

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