An airman from Luke Air Force Base late last month became the first to receive an assignment that took into consideration his child custody arrangement.
Master Sgt. William Rotroff will move this fall to his next assignment at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where his ex-wife and son, Chevvy, live, the Air Force Personnel Center said in an Aug. 27 release.
The Air Force on Aug. 17 began allowing airmen who have court-ordered child custody arrangements to ask to be stationed near their children for their next assignments, or to have their next assignments deferred if it would take them away from their kids. Previously, child custody arrangements were not considered as part of the assignment process.
Rotroff, an F-35 integrated section chief with the 756th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Luke, submitted his request to be stationed near Chevvy right away. Less than 24 hours later, his commander, Maj. Joseph Langan, gave him the good news in person.
“One of the greatest parts about being a squadron commander is that I have the ability and authority to fix many problems for my airmen relatively quickly,” Langan said in the release. “Sometimes the problems are messy and have complex solutions, but this was one of the easiest and most satisfying wins I’ve had during my time in command.”
Langan said Rotroff was “overjoyed.”
“I was in shock,” Rotroff said. “I know the assignment process is busy, with a lot of moving parts. I’m just so grateful to the assignments team and everyone that was involved with making this happen.”
Rotroff was originally supposed to go overseas, so he helped his ex-wife and son move to Florida, where she would have more support while he was gone. But then, his overseas orders were unexpectedly cancelled, complicating his situation.
The cancellation came shortly after Aug. 5, when the Air Force announced the decision to consider child custody arrangements for assignments. He got more information on what was required from his Military Personnel Flight and carefully prepared his package to make sure he qualified.
Cristi Bowes, AFPC’s head of military assignment policy and procedures, said Rotroff got his quick response because he made sure his package already had all the necessary documentation. AFPC’s assignment teams were also trained to quickly accept and review requests right after the application period opened up.
However, the Air Force cautioned last month that it still has to meet its needs, and might not be able to accommodate all airmen requesting assignment near their children. These assignment matches will be made when possible, the Air Force said, and it will try to accommodate airmen’s family situations, unless there is no other option.
Rotroff said he will likely arrive in Florida just in time to join in the celebration of his son’s fifth birthday, which he said would be a “huge gift” for them both.
“Everyone’s situation is different, everyone’s urgency is different, but it’s a blessing this program exists,” Rotroff said. “I’m thankful my son will be able [to] have his mom and dad. His happiness means the world to me.”
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.