NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Enlisted Airmen will eventually be able to trade work assignments to give troops more career flexibility, the Air Force’s top defendant said here Wednesday.
Air Force Chief Master Sergeant JoAnne Bass also announced several other policy changes in her keynote address at the annual Air and Space Forces Association conference outside of Washington.
The Air Force begins to work out the details of how the exchange would work. Airmen could volunteer to take the place of another person selected for a specific assignment or swap upcoming jobs with each other, the service said.
Registered Airmen other than Chief Master Sergeants or E-9s may use the program. To swap jobs, Airmen must hold the same Air Force job, have the same special experience codes, and have attained the same grade and skill level.
“We are in the early stages of establishing the job swap program,” Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Toni Whaley said Wednesday. “We are working with our partners to expand the process and identify business rules to make the program more comprehensive with minimal constraints.”
Whaley didn’t say when the option will be available.
Enlisted Airmen also have at least four months after returning home from a foreign assignment to readjust to life in America, Bass said. This can ease the pressure on families to find housing quickly and avoid aviators getting back to work before they’re reunited with their belongings.
The Air Force will also make final decisions about where returning Airmen will work during the same four-month period.
Bass wants to make it easier for those who take time off their regular jobs to spend time as military training instructors and leaders, as well as enlisted recruiters, to return to those careers.
She intends to clarify the process of how dispatched airmen with pregnant spouses can ask to come home and start a new job; Clear up the confusion over the paperwork required to deploy dual military spouses in the same area. and start sending up-to-date information about tasks to local support staff.
And the Air Force will allow Airmen seeking emergency transfers, such as victims of sexual assault, to move regardless of how long they have been on its base. Airmen acquitted of sexual assault charges in courts-martial can now also request expedited transfers.
“Kudos to our Airmen…who have come from across the Air Force to look at the operational guidelines and analyze this 571 page [Air Force instruction] to identify and make recommendations that will improve tasks for all of us,” Bass said.
As for the Space Force, officials are looking to incorporate personalization and flexibility into the assignment process as the newest service matures.
“Choice and control is important to people,” Space Force Chief Master Sergeant Roger Towberman told reporters at a roundtable on Wednesday. “Blanket guidelines — especially for a small group of people — firstly, aren’t necessary, and secondly, they might not be that helpful.”
Military space missions are spread across fewer facilities than those of the Air Force. Some are as far away and remote as Greenland or Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. This can complicate matters for, for example, guardians with children or who would rather live somewhere other than the major military space centers in the continental United States.
Towberman said listening to people’s preferences and concerns can result in happier troops without sacrificing military prowess. The service is learning how to have these conversations, grade by grade.
“The early feedback is, ‘Wow, you called me. You asked what I want to do. They took care of what my family wanted. And then you worked with me to find a way for the Space Force to get what the Space Force needs, and I felt invested,” Towberman said. “Mission is being accomplished, readiness is high and morale is high.”
Related issues, such as how long a guardian should be required to stay in their job before moving to a new entity, are still being debated.
It can be easier to put down roots while serving in Space Force, added General John “Jay” Raymond, Chief of Space Operations.
“There’s a hub in Colorado, a hub in California, a hub in Florida, and a hub in New Mexico,” he said. “It allows you to stay in one place … and develop in your professional field.”
Rachel Cohen joined the Air Force Times in March 2021 as a senior reporter. Her work has been published in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, Frederick News-Post (Md.), Washington Post, and others.