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Air Force backtracks on short re-enlistment bonus deadline

The Air Force on Monday reversed course and announced that some airmen in medical career fields — who were within days of losing their eligibility for thousands of dollars in re-enlistment bonuses — will now have until the end of July to decide.

On June 26, the Air Force announced the latest revisions to its selective retention bonus list, which included dropping eight medical career fields from eligibility. However, that list was originally due to take effect July 3. That meant airmen who were about to lose their eligibility would only have had a few days — heading into a holiday week — to decide whether or not to re-enlist, or miss out on the bonuses.

The unofficial Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco objected to the short deadline last week. On Friday, Air Force Times questioned Air Force officials about why they had deviated from past practice, when airmen losing their bonuses had a 30-day window during in which they could re-enlist and still qualify for the bonuses.

In an email Monday, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said that effective immediately, the Air Force will now give airmen in those fields the full 30-day transition period, until July 31.

“This adjustment is consistent with our preferred policy and also accounts for the upcoming holiday weekend,” Stefanek said.

Stefanek also said that bonuses are one “lever,” along with efforts to improve quality of service and life, that the Air Force uses to try to hold on to airmen in important but undermanned jobs.

But while the retention bonus program is extensive, Stefanek said, its funding is limited and has to be prioritized. And when manning levels and retention rates in a particular job improve to a satisfactory level, the Air Force re-allocates its bonus resources to jobs where there are greater retention needs.

“When making adjustments to retention bonuses, the Air Force prefers to give eligible impacted airmen a full 30-day period to make critical decisions regarding re-enlistment,” Stefanek said. “Under rare circumstances, shorter transition periods could be required and offered.”

The Air Force regularly offers these bonuses, which can be as much as $100,000, to encourage skilled airmen in critical career fields to stay in uniform. Airmen in 107 career fields are now eligible for the bonuses. Jobs such as tactical air control party, pararescue, combat control, airborne crypto language analyst, special reconnaissance and explosive ordnance disposal are eligible to receive the largest bonuses.

The Air Force calculates the bonuses by multiplying one month of an airman’s salary, by the number of years the airman is reenlisting, by a multiplier that is specific to the career field and number of years of service.

Medical airmen in the 4A2X1 biomedical equipment, 4J0X2 physical medicine, 4N0X1B aerospace medical services-neurodiagnostic medical tech, 4R0X1A diagnostic imaging-nuclear medicine, 4R0X1C diagnostic imaging-magnetic resonance imaging, 4T0X1 medical lab, 4T0X2 histopathology, and 4Y0X2 dental lab will no longer be eligible for retention bonuses as of the end of July.

Experienced airmen in a ninth AFSC, 4N1X1B urologists, with 10 to 14 years or 18 to 20 years in the Air Force will also lose their bonus eligibility, though urologists with 17 months to 10 years will remain eligible.

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