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Retention boards convene with fewer airmen targeted

Jun. 16, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Scoping it out
Only 83 master sergeants in the security forces career field are still deemed overmanned as more than 1,400 airmen are likely to be cut by the Air Force's first retention boards, which convened Monday in San Antonio. (Samuel King Jr. / Air Force)
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BAGHDAD -- Staff Sgt. Daniel Jung, 447th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, calls out commands during a firing drill March 29. Members of the 447th ESFS trained Iraqi Security Forces airmen, ensuring weapons qualification, and teaching defensive tactics, vehicle searches and other force protection measures. Sergeant Jung is deployed from 178th SFS, Ohio Air National Guard, and is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau) (Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau / 321st Air Expeditionary)

More than 1,400 airmen are likely to be cut by the Air Force’s first retention boards, which convened Monday in San Antonio.

The board will consider 7,285 airmen between the ranks of senior airman and senior master sergeant, and must decide to separate or retire 1,427 who have been deemed overmanned, according to the final enlisted retention board matrix, which was dated June 12. That means about one in five airmen facing the boards will have his career ended.

According to the matrix, 446 staff sergeants, 408 technical sergeants and 434 master sergeants are overmanned, meaning the brunt of the cuts will fall on those ranks.

Those numbers have been reduced considerably over the last few months as the Air Force has cut airmen through other, voluntary programs such as early retirements and voluntary separation pay.

The previous matrix, which was released in May, listed 4,028 airmen as overmanned and 14,595 as eligible to meet the boards. And the original matrix in January listed 18,336 enlisted airmen as overmanned.

The security forces career field, 3P0X1, has seen one of the most dramatic turnarounds in recent months. The January matrix listed 3,992 airmen in that career field as overmanned — or 15 percent of the total career field — and likely to be cut. But security forces officials quickly objected and began speaking to top Air Force leaders about the need to reduce cuts.

In the latest matrix, only 83 master sergeants in the security forces career field are still deemed overmanned.

The boards are meeting at the Air Force Personnel Center’s headquarters in San Antonio and will review eligible airmen’s evaluations, decorations, an Enlisted Retention Brief and an Enlisted Retention Recommendation Form to rank airmen and decide who will be retained — and who will be made to separate or retire.

By late July, the board will decide which senior noncommissioned officers will not be retained, and their senior raters will give them the bad news. The remaining enlisted airmen will learn their fates in early August. Master sergeants and senior master sergeants who are not selected for retention must retireDec. 1; senior airmen through technical sergeants who are not retained must separate Jan. 31.

The looming retention boards have been weighing heavily on many airmen’s minds for months. They are part of the Air Force’s broad force management program, which seeks to cut up to 25,000 airmen to help it deal with the sequester’s budget cuts.

In a June 13 release, the Air Force said it has cut roughly 4,000 airmen from eligibility for the upcoming involuntary force management boards “to bolster manning for nuclear-related Air Force specialty codes and to account for budgetary uncertainty regarding proposed force structure changes.”

“Establishing full manning in our nuclear positions underscores the vital importance of this mission,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said. “It also offers these critical airmen a more stable work schedule and improves their quality of life. Budgetary uncertainty regarding proposed force structure actions is also driving us to retain more airmen in some career fields. Adjusting our force management programs reduces risk at this point.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the reductions were made based on his and James’ discussions with Air Force senior leaders.

“This adjustment is necessary because we’re not sure whether we’ll be allowed to execute the difficult decisions we made to divest force structure next year, and because of our recent decision to increase manning in the nuclear mission,” Welsh said. “We don’t want to cut a single airman more than the number absolutely necessary to keep our force in balance. This adjustment is another action that keeps us aligned with that principle.”

The 4,000 reductions do not include all cuts made to the eligibility list, Air Force spokesman Rose Richeson said. Additional information on the reductions will likely be released sometime this week, she said.

Officer overmanning

Another new chart, dated June 11, shows that 140 majors are deemed overmanned and likely to be cut by an enhanced Selective Early Retirement Board later this month, and that 468 majors are eligible for the E-SERB. That is down from the 713 eligible and 213 overmanned in April.

A new officer force shaping board matrix lists 226 overmanned, and 1,086 eligible, down from 469 overmanned and 2,592 eligible in April.

And the latest officer reduction-in-force matrix now lists 612 officers as overmanned, and 3,891 eligible. That is down from 3,187 overmanned and 10,759 eligible in the original RIF matrix from January.

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