Beginning next year, the initial tours for Air Force first sergeants will increase from three years to four.

Chief Master Sgt. Sandy Pfeffer, the Air Force's first sergeant special-duty manager, said in a Facebook post Monday that under the new system, first sergeants will serve a four-year initial tour, with options MEANING THE AF CAN OPT TO EXTEND YOU? OR MEANING THE 1ST SGT CAN OPT TO EXTEND?//sl Air Force extends to extend another one or two years, for a maximum tour of six years.

The total maximum time for most first sergeants won't increase. First sergeants now serve three-year initial tours, and then have the option of requesting another three-year tour.

The Air Force hopes to put the changes into place Feb. 1, Pfeffer said. When the changes are implemented, Pfeffer said, first sergeants with up to 21 months on the job will have 12 months added to their tours, bringing them up to four years.

First sergeants who have 22 months or more on the job will not be affected by the change, and will continue to serve a three-year tour. WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE WITH 22 OR 23 MONTHS?//sl fixed

"Nothing was entered into lightly ... and yes some will be extending that were not planning on it," Pfeffer said in a comment on her post. "It is [the] needs of the AF and the bigger picture."

The changes will be included in a revision of the Air Force Instruction governing first sergeants, AFI 36-2113, that is now being finalized, Pfeffer said.

First sergeants who are promoted to senior master sergeant also will be required to serve another two years as first sergeant, beginning from their date of selection, Pfeffer said. But no one will serve longer than eight years, she said. SO IS IT ACCURATE TO SAY ''UP TO SIX YEARS ABOVE'' WHEN THIS MAKES IT LOOK LIKE UP TO 8 YEARS?//sl I added "most" to the lede. This is for a small subset of first shirts who get promoted at the end of their tour; the six year thing will cover the bulk of 1st sgts //First sergeants who have more than two years remaining on their current tour at the time of selection will not have their tours extended.First sergeants who have more than two years remaining on their current tour at the time of selection will not have their tours extended.

The new tour extension rules are not retroactive, Pfeffer said. That means selectees who already have an assignment back to their regular job -- known as their primary Air Force Specialty Code, or PAFSC -- at the time of selection and those who have already left their first sergeant job are exempt, she said.

The Air Force struggled for years to find enough qualified noncommissioned officers willing to volunteer to be first shirts. So last year, the Air Force switched to a nomination process, in which commanders nominate their top performers to be first sergeants or perform other special duties.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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