Two years ago, no ROTC cadets listed nuclear and missile operations among their top three career choices. Last year, however, 65 cadets did. And 174 cadets listed the 13N career field among their top six.
Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, attributes the growing interest to new bonuses that make missile officers the highest-paid lieutenants in the service.
The Air Force missileer community has seen rapid change in the one year since a bottom-up review revealed of morale problems in the career field, which has led to a dramatic increase in new officers selecting the career field and bonuses that make missile officers the highest-paid lieutenants in the service.
Air Force Global Strike Command's Force Improvement Program, in which airmen of all ranks detailed to an independent group of experts issues they face in their careers, has led to dozens of changes. Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, the assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, said today that the changes have led to an increase in interest in the career field.
"We have seen in the last year a huge increase in the number of volunteers to go into [the career field," Harcenak said.
The career field didn't have anywhere to go but up, in terms of Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet interest. In 2013, not a single ROTC cadet listed the 13N nuclear and missile operations career field in their top three choices. In 2014, 65 cadets listed it as a top three option, and a total of 174 cadets listed it in their top six, according to Global Strike Command.
Among the changes: Perhaps the biggest reason for this has been an increase in pay for new officers in the career field. The Air Force announced bonuses for missileers, which have made officers in the 13N career field the highest paid young officers in the Air Force for the first six years of their careers. After six years, pilots are eligible for aviation pay, which then makes them the highest paid. A new second lieutenant makes $34,862 per year, and a missileer in that rank position is eligible for bonuses of up to $300 per month for missileers, along with additional bonuses for those who complete initial skills training and targeted incentive pay for airmen operating outside their main base.
After six years, pilots are eligible for aviation pay, which then makes them the highest paid.
In addition to pay, the Air Force has provided new vehicles to officers, deep-cleaned their launch control facilities, and adjusted their schedules to improve their quality of life, Harencak said Tuesday at an Air Force. More changes are still to come as the service continues to review recommendations from Global Strike Command's the force improvement program.
"This isn't something to go, 'OK, we fixed that, let's move on,' " Harencak said. "It's going to be a continuous process."
The deep-seeded issues in the missileer ranks come from the service not focusing enough on the "people aspect" of the nuclear mission.
"We've aggressively gone after the solutions to those problems," Harencak he said.
One major issue across the command has been under-manning in critical career fields. The service announced last month an effort to beef up manning in security forces by adding new teams to missile bases. The service is looking at ways to reach 100 percent manning in all critical career fields – security forces, aircraft armament systems, nuclear weapon maintenance, missile electronic maintenance, missile systems maintenance, missile facility maintenance, bomber aircraft maintenance and command post controller.