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Force reductions: Your questions answered

Jan. 20, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Senior airmen facing enlisted retention boards because they are in overmanned fields will be able to apply for voluntary separation until May 1.
Senior airmen facing enlisted retention boards because they are in overmanned fields will be able to apply for voluntary separation until May 1. (Samuel King Jr./Air Force)
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With the Air Force preparing for the deepest force cuts since the end of the Cold War, airmen across the service are asking how the various force management programs might apply to them. Below, find answers to some of the questions weíve received from airmen. Answers are based on Air Force memos on the force-shaping programs.

Q. Iím in the Air National Guard [or Air Force Reserve]. Am I eligible for any of the voluntary programs, or am I at risk of one of the involuntary programs?

A. No. All of the force management programs now being rolled out apply only to active-duty airmen.

Q. What if I have between 18 and 20 years of service? Will I be affected by the reduction-in-force boards, or other involuntary programs?

A. The RIF, force shaping, enlisted retention and Quality Force Review Boards will not consider airmen who are in the so-called ďsanctuaryĒ zone, those who have more than 18 and less than 20 years of service. The chief master sergeant and senior noncommissioned officer retentionboards and enhanced selective early retirement board, or E-SERB, are only considering airmen who are already eligible for retirement, or, in the case of E-SERB, will be retirement-eligible as of Dec. 1.

Q. Iím facing a personal hardship. Can my retirement or separation be deferred?

A. Probably not. The secretary of the Air Force may defer an officerís early retirement under the E-SERB to prevent a personal hardship on a case-by-case basis, usually by less than 90 days. But the situation must be extraordinary, must prevent a hardship greater than those normally experienced by military members or families, and must be one that can be alleviated only by a deferral.

Airmen who are being separated by an enlisted retention board may have their date of separation extended by up to 120 days if they face an extreme, unique personal hardship that occurs after the board convenes, and that can only be resolved by temporarily staying on active duty. Those requests must be endorsed by the airmanís unit and wing commander, and have the support of the major command. Any commander in the chain who disapproves can derail the extension request.

Q. If Iím in an overmanned career field, what criteria are retention boards going to use to decide whether I stay or go?

A. The board will review information from your personnel record, including the last decadeís worth of enlisted performance reviews; decoration citations; Article 15 information; court-martial records; evaluation letters for breaks in service, EPR appeals or administrative corrections; retention board briefs; and senior rater recommendations.

The Air Force is strongly encouraging airmen to check their records to make sure no information is incorrect or missing before the board reviews them.

Q. What if Iím deployed overseas?

A. Officers deployed overseas will be notified by home station commanders if they are eligible for the RIF board, but they will not immediately return home. If they are selected for separation by the RIF board, they will be replaced in accordance with the standard early return and replacement rules.

RIF-eligible officers remain available for deployments until their separation date is established and limits their availability. RIF-eligible officers currently assigned overseas with a return date of between April and July are encouraged to voluntarily extend their overseas service until September, after the expected August release date of RIF board results. If an officer overseas is RIFed and his return date is earlier than Jan. 15, 2015, the date will be involuntarily extended to Jan. 15, 2015, which is the date by which RIFed officers must separate.

If an overseas RIFed officer wants to separate earlier, he must submit to the Air Force Personnel Center a memo endorsed by his commander and wing commander requesting an earlier separation date.

If an airman is selected for separation by the Quality Force Review Board and has 20 or more years of total active federal military service, his date of return will be involuntarily adjusted to Sept. 30, or earlier if authorized by his commander. Other airmen will have their date of return set to Sept. 29.

Officers eligible for the E-SERB will remain available for deployments ó except for 365-day extended deployments ó until an established retirement date limits their availability.

Q. What if Iím on temporary duty?

A. Chief master sergeants on temporary duty facing a retention board can apply for voluntary retirement, but their deployment dates wonít be adjusted to accommodate their retirement dates. Their requested retirement also may not be extended beyond Jan. 1, 2015, to accommodate their deployment return date or terminal leave.

Airmen on TDY who are eligible for the quality board or enlisted retention board will be notified of their eligibility, but will not be returned to their home station immediately. Deployed airmen selected for separation by the quality board will be replaced in accordance with the usual early return and replacement rules.

Q. What if I have a permanent change-of-station move or a 365-day extended deployment coming up?

A. RIF-eligible officers who have accepted a PCS or extended deployment before the announcement of the RIF program, but who have not yet departed, may choose to separate in lieu of the move or deployment. RIF-eligible officers who are currently projected for an extended deployment will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis for possible deployment cancellation.

Airmen eligible for the quality board, E-SERB or retention board will not be selected for a 365-day extended deployment. Those who have been selected for one will be removed from the tasking when the mission and time permit reselection.

Airmen with a projected assignment who are being separated under the QFRB will have their PCS canceled, and will remain in place until they are authorized to depart on separation or retirement orders.

Q. What if Iím under investigation or appellate review, or am facing civil charges, pending disciplinary action, involuntary discharge or action under the disability evaluation system?

A. You will be ineligible for voluntary retirement under the chief master sergeant retention boards. If you have a pending disability action or investigation, you will still be eligible to meet the RIF or force-shaping boards.

Q. What about my transferred GI Bill benefits?

A. If you volunteer for retirement rather than face a chief master sergeant retention board or E-SERB, and havenít completed your active-duty service commitment, you may forfeit the transferred benefit, and any benefits already used by dependents may be deemed overpayments and subject to recoupment. Airmen who are selected for involuntary separation or retirement by the boards will have their service obligation deemed complete and will not have to repay any transferred benefits.

Q. How about bonuses, special pays or other monetary incentives?

A. Airmen involuntarily discharged or released under the Quality Force Review Board or enlisted retention boards will not have to repay the unearned portions of those incentives. Airmen who voluntarily retire or separate in lieu of meeting the quality or enlisted retention boards will have to repay the unearned portions of those bonuses.

Q. What about transition assistance?

A. Airmen who are eligible for the various boards are required to participate in a transition assistance program at their local airman and family readiness center. The program includes pre-separation counseling, a five-day transition assistance workshop, veteransí benefit briefings with details on disability benefits, one-on-one assistance to develop an individual transition plan, and a capstone event where an airmanís commander verifies he met all career readiness standards.

The program also provides assistance with financial planning and management, spouse employment, relocation, employment resources and other general information.

Q. Can I appeal a boardís decision?

A. There will be no process for airmen to appeal a decision made by the Quality Force Review Board or the enlisted retention board. However, an airman who thinks the quality board made a decision based on missing or inaccurate records can apply for relief to the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records, although that airmanís separation or retirement will not be delayed pending a decision by that board. The other programsí memos do not address appeals.■


The application windows for officer and enlisted 15-year retirements and eight other force management programs are now open for airmen who want to exit voluntarily rather than face a board. Those who donít volunteer might miss out on the possibility of collecting increased separation pay. Hereís the breakdown:

Retire/separate early Meet the board
Separation pay Early retirement Separation pay Early retirement
Quality Force Review Board No Yes Yes Yes
Chief master sergeant retention board No No No No
Enlisted retention boards (E-4, E-5, E-6 & SNCO) Yes (125 percent separation pay) Yes Yes Yes
Enhanced Selective Early Retirement Board No No No No
Reduction-in-force board Yes (125 percent separation pay) Yes Yes No

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