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Air Force offering up to $50k bonuses to new enlistees

U.S. Air Force Special Tactics operators provide security for an MC-130J Commando II transport aircraft at Melrose Air Force Range, NM. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff. Sgt Ridge Shan)
April 12, 2022

The U.S. Air Force is offering up to $50,000 in enlistment incentives for new recruits, amid struggles in the service’s recruiting efforts.

The Air Force announced the new bonus structure for its Initial Enlistment Bonus (IEB) program on Monday. The new bonuses are mainly intended to fill six-year contracts in the service’s hard-to-fill job specialties.

Air Force Special Warfare recruits are already eligible for up to $50,000 in bonus pay for entering active duty on a six-year contract. The same bonus now also applies to Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians who sign on for a six-year contract.

The skillset with the next highest bonus pay offering is for Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Escape (SERE) instructors. The service is offering a $40,000 bonus for enlistees who will take on a six-year contract with the role of training other Airmen in SERE skills.

The service is also offering a $20,000 bonus for a six-year enlistment as an airborne linguist and $18,000 for six years as a crypto linguist. Cryptologic linguists are responsible for translating intercepted communications and airborne linguists typically perform that same role while in flight onboard various Air Force intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance (ISR) aircraft.

The Air Force is also offering between $12,000 and $20,000 for six-year contracts in four different cyber-related specialties, including Cyber Systems Operations, Cyber Surety, Client Systems and Cyber Transport Systems specialists.

Radio Frequency Transmission Systems, Refuel/Bomber Aircraft Maintenance, Aerospace Ground Equipment, Munitions Systems, Aircraft Armament Systems and Any Mechanical or Electrical Aptitude Area specialties are offering $3,000 bonuses for four-year contracts and $6,000 for six-year contracts.

The Air Force is also offering an additional $8,000 incentive for anyone willing to enlist on a “Quick Ship” basis. The “Quick Ship” option is for any fully-qualified applicant who can fill a short-notice Basic Military Training Vacancy and ship out within five days. The “Quick Ship” bonus is open from April 11 to Sept. 30.

The new Air Force enlistment bonus structure comes amid high competition in the workforce.

“As we roll up our sleeves in the battle for talent, we’ve got to remain competitive as we go after our next generation of Airmen,” Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, Air Force Recruiting Service commander, said Monday. “While we’ve got an unmatched value proposition we also have a record-high level of competition for America’s best and brightest.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. Army was also offering up to $50,000 in bonuses to fill six-year contracts in various select specialties. Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, head of Army Recruiting Command, said pandemic-era closures made it difficult to recruit at high schools. Vereen said the rebound in the U.S. job market as pandemic-related policies ended, had also given potential recruits more economic opportunities outside the Army, exacerbating the recruiting challenge. Last month, Army officials admitted the service was still struggling to recruit new soldiers and would have to cut its expected force size by thousands of troops, bringing it to the smallest force size since World War II.