Air Force staff sergeants will once again be eligible to retire, according to an Air Force memo signed Oct. 18 that raises the high-year tenure for enlisted airmen, ranks E-4 to E-6.
The change, which takes effect Feb. 1, is a reversal of up-or-out rules from 2013 used as a force-reduction tool during sequestration.
The new policy extends high-year tenure for senior airmen from eight to 10 years; staff sergeants from 15 to 20 years; and technical sergeants from 20 to 22 years.
“This is just one of the ways we are working to manage the talent we currently have,” Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright said in a statement issued Monday. “Adjusting the high year of tenure policy will allow us to keep Airmen we’ve trained and developed over the course of their careers and allow them to continue to serve their nation to the best of their ability and pay it forward, by training the next generation of Airmen who are right behind them.”
Wright had hinted at the possibility of increasing the tenure of the Air Force’s middle tier enlisted ranks during several all-hands calls at bases across Europe, but said the service wanted to ensure that letting staff sergeants stay in longer wouldn’t create a bottleneck of senior airmen awaiting promotion.
Airmen in these ranks will have their HYT automatically adjusted by the Air Force Personnel Center in San Antonio, and those who hit HYT before Feb. 1 can request an extension via the virtual manpower and personnel flight beginning Oct. 24, the statement said.
“These force-shaping tools are critical to ensuring the investment we’ve made in enhancing our Airmen’s technical skills are leveraged and allocated across the force deliberately,” Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, said in the statement. “By extending high year of tenure, we’re able to leverage our talented, seasoned professionals to train, develop, and lead new Airmen to accomplish current and future mission requirements.”
Many airmen expressed excitement about the opportunity to extend their careers.
“It’s a great move,” Tech. Sgt. David Showers of the 374th Operations Support Squadron said Tuesday at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo. “I think it allows us to hold on to a lot of experienced airman we’d otherwise lose.”
However, Wright emphasized that service is an honor and not an entitlement.
“Supervisors and commanders will continue to ensure that proper conduct and mission performance are the primary factors in determining continued service,” he said in the statement.
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