"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Is the Air Force Dam About to Burst?


It started off as an announcement of doom and gloom right before the Christmas holidays, so that people and their families could plan their futures and have some certainty.  As folks are fond of saying in the service, bad news doesn't get any better with age, and the force shaping news was certainly bad.  It was yet another stressor for already stressed airmen, but the service attempted to mitigate it.

Unfortunately, that is not what happened by a long shot.

Those of us who have been around awhile have heard the warnings from leadership for decades now.  We are breaking the force.  We cannot sustain this ops tempo.  Something is going to give.  It appears that day has arrived, as service members are apparently flocking to leave the Air Force.

After delayed information, several false starts, divergent information from AFPC and neon question marks illuminated across wings throughout the Air Force, the service has decided to call knock it off on the voluntary separation programs, as the Air Force Times recently reported.  It has been dubbed a "strategic delay."  Weeks earlier, the Air Force called a halt to the involuntary program and nullified issued guidance.

Rumors now abound across the internet.  There are reports that the Chief of Staff of the Air Force was unaware of the problems in the force management program until a few days ago.  Many are voicing their opinion that the A1 needs to be fired, and that heads need to roll for an embarrassing debacle that has hurt people and the mission.  Others are complaining about job interviews and job offers that will now go by the wayside as they try to plan their family's lives based on the information they were explicitly given for that very reason, which has now become null and void.  And there are rumors from people who claim to know someone inside AFPC, that claim the Air Force circuit breaker has simply popped after being overwhelmed with the number of applications from airmen voluntarily seeking to exit the service.

Some of those rumors put the number at 40,000+ voluntary applications, while others put it at 50K, 70K, and even 100,000 applications.  With a rumor-producing vacuum of guidance, it's hard to know where the truth lies.  I don't imagine a number will ever be confirmed publicly, but all the evidence suggests to me that an overwhelming number of service members want out of our Air Force, and they want out now.  Of course, the previous TERA likely provided the same indicators, although only a trickle were approved for early retirement.

This should be good news for a service that stated a goal of removing 25,000 airmen over five years, and that maintained that it would use voluntary programs to the maximum extent possible to lessen the requirement for involuntary measures.

But it is not good news.  Rather, it's the ultimate climate assessment.  The voluntary exodus of tens of thousands of airmen into a bad economy, realized or not by the flesh peddlers, just goes to show that something is terribly wrong in our service.

It will be very interesting to see how this force shaping program is handled from here on out.  Whatever the decisions made with the fate of airmen, one thing is certain.  They will leave one way or another, it's just a matter of when and how.

What will the Air Force do then?

30 comments:

  1. I would suggest those high numbers are probably not accurate OR people seeking an early out simply do not realize how tough the job market is right now.

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    1. As you are retired, you didn't see the 14 airmen come to me and ask how and when they can get out. I work in a small section. 13 people would have crippled our mission. Take that acrosa the board and realize that 30k is probably a low estimate. Just my humble opinion but yeah it is not the AF I entered.

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    2. I did palace chase last year to get out early and now have 4 jobs and live pay check to paycheck. But I've never been happier And I'm glad I don't have to constantly worry about getting out for anything. By the way I have firewall 5 ears my whole career, been in since 2004 and made sent my second time. Also would have a line for that no second time but was out on terminal leave. So Shinn perhaps you don't understand that many people would rather be happy.

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    3. This really is not the Air Force that I joined either. Agree totally with Ben above ten years ago things were not this way at all and it seems that every day or two I run into another person that just wants out. Funny thing is, it's not the new airmen either, it is the second and third term airmen that are just done with it. They do know full well how the civilian workforce is right now and everytime they say "we will take our chances out there".

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  2. It was actually 70k. Just got the brief this morning

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  3. So what is broken and how do we fix it? The main problem I see at my level is a result of Congressional micromanagement for the sake of self-preservation instead of national security. That's outside of our leadership's span of control.

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    1. 1. Involuntary extensions
      2. Reduction in health care benefits for retirees. Higher co-pays.
      3. Less job security. Many getting out while they can for fear they will be cut before reaching retirement
      4. Changes to 20 yr retirement pay, if one is able to get there at all.
      5. Involuntary reduction = more work, without a raise, for those staying in the service.
      6. Wartime stress, injuries, PTSD and death
      7. More stress, pressure and responsibility for active duty
      8. High-risk world police work instead of national defense
      9. Limited transition assistance for those serving a single term
      10. Higher rate of suicide, due to all of the above

      Fix - Start reducing the salaries of those making the decisions, starting with Congress and the high-ranking military advisers until the all-volunteer force feels like an all-volunteer force. Draftees of the past, at least, could count the days until separation. Volunteers who are not allowed to know when they may leave are made to feel more like conscripted prisoners. They no longer seem to be treated as free citizens who have chosen, voluntarily, to follow in the footsteps of our heroes. This type of management does not inspire one to give. It has quite the opposite effect on the morale of the troops. Military morale has historically proven to be a key factor in battles. All of the above are morale factors.

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    2. And the stresses that numbers 1-9 (and 10) place on relationships and family. Relationships/family issues brought on by the Air Force are also a primary cause of suicide.

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  4. Honestly it's the entire Air Force mentality. Especially at an organizational level. The core values are non-existent. Nowadays basically used as an excuse to hand out paperwork. You have all been lied to just like I was. It's truly just a greedy, political sea of self-service.

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  5. A lot if the problem is that the people who volunteered to separate aren't the ones the AF needs to get rid of. They were the people who probably won't have trouble finding a job on the outside and who will be successful. Within three hours of posting on facebook that I was considering retiring under TERA I had two job offers that would double my TSgt pay and that was only because I've been networking my entire career so I would be ready when the time came to get out. We have been hemorrhaging our vest and brightest to the private sector for years. This just offered all of the best and brightest the opportunity to jump ship at the same time.

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    1. I so agree I commissioned as a nurse 5 years ago the fact that I'm a Critical care EN my AFSC is ineligible for voluntary separate or palace chase! If we're short in the Air Force then of course the civilian community is in dire need as well! As I had 2 remind my leadership at one point I was a nurse when I came in and I will be one when I leave so taking my rank does not take my career! You are very right they are going 2 lose what they really should keep!!

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  6. General Fogelman was right in trying to institutionalize our core values -- that every policy and significant decision ought to be made through the lenses of Integrity, Service and Excellence. Instead, we have tried to make this about individual responsibility and living up to a code of ethics which have been overcome by external influences and factors. No more so than the disconnect between the HAF and the rest of the force, just as there is a disconnect between Washington DC and the rest of the country; it is a shame that our service headquarters so resembles our national government. However, that ought not be a surprise as my sense of the HAF is that is more oriented on servicing the Hill than its Airmen.

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  7. I hit that button, the very day that the opportunity opened up. Why? Because of leadership. Because of options. I have never been happy in the Air Force. Granted, there are times where I do enjoy some of the camaraderie that goes on. But that is usually not there. I have a wife and kid, and leadership who love to work us into the ground for numbers. They don't care if my wife and kid is at home with severe bronchitis, and they can barely fend for themselves. No, they care if I get that plane fixed so it can get up in the air tomorrow so their numbers go up so by the the end of the year they can say "we made our goal!". It wouldnt be so bad if they cared, or there was an incentive to the hard work. "Hey man, you did a great job, have a day off." Yea right, more like "Hey man, you did a great job, you think you could go help numb nuts over there too? He isnt getting me the numbers I want for my EPR. I need to make senior." /RANT

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    1. Also, my enlistment is up in November, so either way the AF is losing me. I already have 3 job offers, with the lowest one more than doubling my current pay with LESS work. I think the problem with the AF is that they dont really value what they have and who they employ. I'm just about done with my master's in engineering. Think the AF could use me? Sure.

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  8. There is a need for extensive changes in the Air Force but first in DC. Buying votes with the security of the Nation will lead to failure of the Nation.

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  9. I did a Palace Chase last September, haven't looked back since. I had 13 years in, and it just no longer became worth it. PCS's, non-vol special duties, deployments, TRICARE being diminished, budget cuts without mission drawdowns, the list goes on and on. I had a new better paying job within the week I separated. And like someone said above, we aren't losing our mediocre performers either, I was BTZ, all 5 EPR's, multiple special duties, multiple annual award winner, etc., but you can only be told to do more with less for so long.

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    1. Exactly! I had two special duties, two remotes to Korea within 2.5 years of each other and won multiple awards. I'm a reservist now Volunteering to do MTI duty hopefully so it saves someone else a non-vol. I already live in San Antonio and work at Lackland so I figure why not. I'd be great at the job buti hear so many terrible stories from there too.

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  11. Active Duty only know one thing, it's better to be retired.

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  12. I saw things changing for the worst very quickly around 2004. I got out in 2007. Couldnt be happier! I do a similar job in the civil service for double the money. I wear jeans, dont shave, and can voice my opinion. I am still serving my country (aircraft mechanic). If my child is sick my boss says "go home" We still meet our mission requirments, unlike some Air Force units that are cancelling sorties for airman's dental appts that they purposefully scheduled during flying time to get out of work!! Kinder gentler? How about soft and weak. It's a no-brainer choice for me!

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  13. I've heard a rumor that the vast majority of voluntary apps on the O side were rated. Can anybody confirm that?

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  14. I retired early with 18 years active duty last November under the TERA program. I too had had enough. I have not regretted my choice to retire early and had little to no trouble using my Post-9/11 GI Bill to attend a technical course at a Community College. I was hired into and started my new career the day I graduated the course. With my retirement pay and benefits pluses starting pay in my new career I'm about breaking even with what I was making on Active Duty. Im happier because I feel like im cared about by the company I now work for and I don't have to supervise or rate/write on anyone.

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  16. I was in from 2004-2010, couldn't be happier since separating. I didn't win any awards, but now I'm an honors computer engineering student at a Top 10 engineering school. I was also one of the only people in my shop that could consistently get a 95% or better on PT tests and got my CCAF, so I was definitely a better airman than most. A good portion of my enlisted upper supervision didn't like me because I had a habit of telling them when I disagreed in an admittedly rather untactful manner. They would have tried to kick me out if they didn't know I would have fought it tooth and nail and my SQCOMs typically liked me. I also had bad EPRs because I got caught drinking underage. It was funny having supervisors tell me I deserved my punishment (loss of stripe 3 months before making SrA, and reduction of pay... I was in the dorms for a long time), then encourage me to drink with them at parties because "It's cool, you're with me". They even gave me an oversees PCS a lot of people wanted to try to keep me in after they took my stripe and I told them I wanted out, but I didn't like how I was being treated and I didn't like the direction the AF was headed. It just sucks, because I would talk to old timers when I got in and it sounded like the AF in the 90s was pretty sweet. All well, I needed that rant! It's all good now, I feel free to pursue my interests and I have more job offers than I know what to do with :) P.S. Sorry for the rambling nature of this post, I'm too busy to edit.

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  17. Sorry to hear that, but it's a familiar story I hear from a lot of young enlisted guys, and especially the sharper ones who speak their minds. You are correct, the service in the 90s was great and I think it's perhaps good that so many serving today did not experience pre-911 service. It was a great life. They don't know what they missed, and that may be a good thing. Or not. If the wars are truly winding down, it is feasible the service will finally catch the breather it needs and things may normalize. I don't personally think that will happen, but it's possible, and something younger guys may want to throw into their crosscheck.

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  18. Those "annoying" additional duties that people can't stand can land you great jobs on the outside. I got my GS-12 job that I'm working now from doing one of those additional duties for my last two years. I thought outside the box and worked that additional duty to gain experience. I plotted for 2 years before I exited. That is the problem in the Air Force, Airmen aren't taught to think outside the box. They all act the same, talk the same and imitate each other everyday. I was never one of the chosen ones while I was in. Barely recognized for my work and treated rather poorly during my first 6 years in Minot. (Most people are treated poorly at the 91st MW, not just me) Anyhow, my advice to everyone in the above comments complaining about not being able to get a job: starting thinking for yourself for once in your life and think outside of the box. College is not the only way. I got my job without a bachelors. Yes, I have my CCAF and I'm almost done with my bachelors, but I got my job mostly from experience.

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