The Air National Guard is feeling the pressure of maintaining a full-time pilot force amid a national pilot shortage, according to the chief of the National Guard Bureau.
The Guard is about a couple hundred pilots short when it comes to its full-time positions, Gen. Joseph Lengyel said at an Air Force Association event near Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
In the Air National Guard, full-timers are categorized as either technicians or Active Guard and Reserve, or AGR. Those under the technician umbrella are civil servants and paid on the government scale. The Air Force created the technician slots as a way to train Guardsmen and maintain operational readiness without needing as many people.
“It would be my choice to turn those [technician slots] into AGR slots,” Lengyel said, which would help fill out the full-time Guard numbers.
The National Guard Bureau is also looking at the same options as the Air Force when it comes to retaining pilots, including improving pilots’ quality of life and possibly even retention bonuses.
But there’s a key difference between the active force and the Guard.
“The only good news for me is you can be an airline pilot and a National Guard pilot” at the same time, he said, referencing how the Air Force is losing active-duty pilots to commercial airlines.
Part-time pilots, however, tend to stay longer than their full-time counterparts.
“From our standpoint, what the Air Force lacks is enough experienced pilots to grow the young pilots,” he said.
A similar challenge exists in the Air Force Reserve.
Maj. Gen. Derek Rydholm, deputy to the chief of the Air Force Reserve, said on Wednesday that for the first time last year, 40 percent of airmen recruited into the component were non-prior service, which is lower than previous years.
Rydholm, speaking at the Reserve Forces Policy Board at the Pentagon, said the Reserve is facing a shortage in its mid-career ranks.
“You have a group of very old airmen and a group of very young airmen and a big gap in the middle,” he said.