With just over two months left to hit its recruiting goals, the Air Force is dangling hefty enlistment bonuses for anyone who wants to fill a growing list of in-demand jobs.
The service on Monday added several more career fields that come with signing bonuses for those who enlist for four or six years by Sept. 30, bringing the total to 22 specialties. Those new options largely focus on computer systems and aircraft maintenance-related fields.
People who sign up for network operations (1D731A), systems operations (1D731B), security operations (1D731D) and client systems operations (1D731E), can now bring in $12,000 to $20,000 for a six-year contract, depending on their cyber certifications.
Opting to work in aircraft fuel (2A634) or electrical and environmental systems (2A636) comes with a $3,000 bonus for a four-year contract or $6,000 for six years.
So does enlisting in fuels (2F031); missile and space systems electronic maintenance (2M031), general maintenance (2M032) or facilities (2M033); vehicle maintenance (2T331); and aircraft armament (2W131).
Special warfare recruits remain the most highly sought airmen on the list. They can bring in a $50,000 bonus upon starting active duty.
Anyone who can ship out to basic military training within five days of signing their enlistment contract, regardless of their chosen specialty, snags an extra $8,000. Around 180 recruits have received the fast-track payments for filling last-minute vacancies at BMT since April, the Air Force Recruiting Service said in a release.
“Incentives give recruiters additional support and tools to use as they press through all the challenges associated with reaching the Air Force’s FY22 accessions goals,” the service said. “Those challenges include a low youth inclination to join, a national labor shortage and the aggregate effects of recruiting with reduced face-to-face contact since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020.”
The Air Force aims to recruit 26,151 enlisted airmen by Sept. 30 — about 1,300 fewer people than it sought earlier this year. As of July 13, 20,241 have gone to Basic Military Training and nearly 4,000 are waiting to ship out, Recruiting Service spokesperson Randy Martin said Thursday. That leaves 1,920 openings to fill in about 11 weeks.
Air Force recruiting boss Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas argues this has been the most difficult year for recruiters since 1999, and has tried to gamify their outreach to get airmen to work harder. Some airmen have countered online that it’s not for lack of trying — they need more support from the Air Force to succeed in a tough market.
The Recruiting Service will monitor each squadron’s performance and award special morale patches and coins for those who make the most progress.
“We really want recruiters to be excited as they check their stats each week the same way they’d check on their favorite sports teams or players throughout the season,” said Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Neff, who handles enlisted standards at AFRS.
This story was updated at 10:40 a.m. on July 14 to reflect the most current enlisted recruiting figures in 2022.
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.