Special duty assignments are tough to fill. They require long hours and take airmen away from from their job specialties at midcareer — when competition to get promoted is most intense.
Airmen who fill these jobs receive up to $450 per month, but that hardly makes up for the additional hours the NCOs often must put in as mentors to recruits or young airmen. And despite assurances from the top, airmen still believe stepping away from their specialties for a couple years to fill a special duty job will hurt their promotion chances.
Now, the Air Force is considering a change that would require commands to nominate their best NCOs to fill the critical jobs of training instructor, recruiter and first sergeant.
If the Air Force wants to attract high-caliber men and women to special duties, there should be a direct link between stellar performance in those jobs and promotion opportunities.
Leaders canlook to the Marine Corps as a model, where commanders can nominate outstanding recruiters, drill instructors and security force guards for meritorious promotions to staff and gunnery sergeant. Those promotions are immediate: A March memo on meritorious promotions for Marines in special duties says commanders must convene a board and forward the names of those selected by June 2. The promotions are effective one month later.
Recruiters, training instructors and first sergeants set the tone for the rest of the Air Force. They help shape the characterof young men and women who have volunteered to serve, and the lessons they impart will stay with the airmen they mentor for a lifetime. Their value should be recognized, not only with extra cash, but with the possibility of a boost — not a setback — to their career.