Some explosive ordnance disposal airmen can get massive re-enlistment bonuses for signing up for another three to five years.
A full five-year extension will get eligible master sergeants and senior master sergeants in the 3E8X1 EOD career field the maximum $75,000 critical skills retention bonus, the Air Force Personnel Center said in a Monday email.
Eligible EOD airmen who sign up for the four-year extension can get $50,000, and those who extend for three years can get $30,000, AFPC said.
To be eligible, E-7s and E-8s must be fully qualified EOD airmen, and must have at least 20 years but no more than 22 years of service. The senior noncommissioned officers must have re-enlisted on or after May 13, 2015.
AFPC announced the EOD bonuses May 28 and said that the bonuses could be payable in a lump sum or in periodic installments.
The Air Force is offering these bonuses because EOD airmen in those ranks are understaffed and need to be retained. AFPC said in Monday's email that as of June 1, the service has 136 EOD master sergeants, but needs 160 — meaning the field of E-7s is at 85 percent manning. And senior master sergeants are at an 87.5 percent manning level, with 35 out of 40 slots filled.
"Retaining the SNCO workforce enables the Air Force to maintain the knowledge and experience necessary to train, manage and lead the EOD force," AFPC spokesman Mike Dickerson said in the email.
Dickerson said eligible airmen can apply for the bonus at any time unless the Defense Department revokes the Air Force's authority to grant the bonuses. That bonus authority is now scheduled to expire on May 5, 2018, unless the Pentagon decides to extend it.
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 Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.