Air Force hopes to solve retention problem by giving airmen “better quality of life”

Staff Sgt. Christopher Simison, 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load team chief, inventories supplies June 22, 2015, at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea. Part of Simison's extra duties include organizing the storage of pylons and other materials, the proper storage of which is inspected by the unit's quality assurance personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jake Barreiro/Released)
Staff Sgt. Christopher Simison, 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load team chief, inventories supplies June 22, 2015, at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea. Part of Simison’s extra duties include organizing the storage of pylons and other materials, the proper storage of which is inspected by the unit’s quality assurance personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jake Barreiro/Released)


Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has announced some big changes in the daily routines of active-duty service members in the Air Force.

The focus now is on trying to relieve airmen of some of their extra duties. These additional responsibilities, given at the unit-level, are not part of the airmen’s regular job. They can include anything from managing security to custodial work.

James says, “Additional duties eat up a lot of time and [are] frequently a big annoyance to the force. I’ve heard this over and over again as I’ve traveled… We are trying to take that on …”

James added that this is just part one of the changes and that more will follow. Air Force officials are hoping this recent move and the ones to come, will keep more airmen in their jobs and give them a better quality of life.

Included in that plan is making the airman’s home life “more enriching.”  According to Federal News Radio, James would like pilots to be able to do “professional development and home station flying and training.”

The service has been facing serious staffing problems –its best pilots and maintainers leaving for more lucrative, civilian jobs.

“The civilian airlines are hiring and the pay differential is substantial so we are working with the Congress to try to increase the bonus authority for our pilots in the future,” James said.

By the end of this year, the Air Force is expected to be short about 700 pilots and it still needs 4,000 more maintainers– airmen that repair and work on aircraft.  Several months ago, the service created a new policy that would give $2,000 bonuses to new airmen who signed up to be maintainers.

“It’s going to take us years to get out from under this because we are bringing in new people that will just swell the ranks of the more juniors and it will take years to season them,” James said.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said by the end of this year force numbers will be up to 317,000, and eventually, they will go up to 321,000.

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