The post I did about the 13S/1C6X1 career field along with the link included to the reddit post by SilentD provides some great information about the overview of our career field. The purpose of this post is to further explain some of the more in depth processes, vision, and intent regarding our assignments.
Breadth vs. Depth
As of the writing of this post, AFSPC leadership’s intent for a 13S’s career is to have two Operational Tours or ‘Ops Tours’ under our belt before we move on to do bigger and better things. This discussion is often closely related to the breadth vs. depth discussion, which in short is whether or not it is better to have breadth of experience (i.e., one tour at every different type of space assignment) or depth of experience (i.e., extensive experience in one or maybe two assignments within similar fields.) In other words is it better to have experience in all shreds of space (spacelift, satellite command and control, or Missile Warning) or extensive experience in just Missile Warning? Personally, I think two assignments is the sweet spot of ideal experience so I agree with AFSPC’s current direction on this. The two ops tour policy is not a hard requirement, it is more of a general goal AFPC uses as they walk us through our career paths. For example as a brand new 2d Lt I will almost certainly do two ops tours, but a Capt who cross-flowed into 13S from 62XX will probably only do one because he or she is 4-5 years further down their career.
AFPC Assignment Availability Code
In order for AFPC to maintain control of our tours and tour length, they use Assignment Availability Codes IAW AFI 36-2110. The below memorandum signed January 15, 2015 dictates that with a few exceptions 13S tour length is 36 or 48 months depending on the unit. The time doesn’t start until you are combat mission ready/mission ready (CMR/MR) so it can be up to one year until your time on station actually starts. For example here is how my timeline played out. I was extremely fortunate so consider my case the best-case scenario:
- Graduated OTS
- +2 months – casual status
- +3 months – Undergraduate Space Training (UST) at Vandenberg AFB, CA
- +2 months – casual status
- +3 months – Mission Qualification Training (MQT) at my first base
- TOTAL: 10 months after graduating OTS, finally on console doing the job
I was in training for 10 months so my 36/48 month tour didn’t start until 10 months (CMR date) after I graduated OTS. Some of my peers were in training for even up to 18 months so that was a significant part of their career spent in limbo. I consider 18 months the worst-case scenario.
AFPC controls these tours by Assignment Availability Codes which are outlined in AFI 36-2110. AAC codes may sound familiar because if you were active duty when you applied for OTS you had to have an AAC 05. Here is the definition for AAC 55:
AAC 55: CONUS Minimum Stabilized Tour, Applies to Officers, Tours controlled by HQ USAF and HQ AFPC, Deferment Period or Effective Date: Date assigned plus number of years authorized. (In our case, the number of years authorized is either 36 or 48 months.)
The memo also mentions Code 56, but this doesn’t make sense to me because the AFI states it applies to enlisted. Regardless, the process and basic premise should be the same.
Stabilized Tour Guide
The AFI also references something called the Stabilized Tour Guide, but the link they provide does not work. This guide can be found on MyPers by searching “Stabilized Tour Guide.” While it doesn’t specifically spell out the details for 13S’s, it does provide some additional information regarding the differences between minimum and maximum stabilized tours. It is worth a glance but not crucial.
Click here for the link to MyPers (Air Force personnel access only)
To re-iterate, yes, this does indeed mean that you could be at your first base 4-5 years. If you are only planning to do four years then punch, knowing this could be a critical point in your decision-making process. Additionally, this can be HUGE if you are a 63XX officer doing an OPEX tour in a 13S billet. I should mention that there are indeed short tours out there which are 12-18 months so this can significantly change your timeline.
New Air Force Assignment Policies
The Air Force has announced new restrictions on Permanent Chance of Station (PCS) assignments, effective immediately.
In an effort to save PCS dollars and to stabilize and better develop the force, new policies have been developed regarding PCS moves that will keep most Air Force personnel in one location for a longer period of time. This can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. For the Air Force, these dollars saved can be used to recapitalize equipment, airplanes and facilities.
For Airmen, this means your families can stay in the same house for a little longer, your children can finish another year at the sames chool, or your spouse can continue to work at their civilian job. On the other hand, if you really want to move from a base you dislike, you will now have to wait longer in many cases.
The first PCS policy change increases the time-on-station requirement needed before one can PCS from one continental United States (CONUS) assignment to another. In the past, you needed to remain at a stateside base for three years before you could PCS to another stateside base. Now, you will need to remain on base for four years before you can get a new assignment to another stateside base. All enlisted Airmen are affected by this change, as are officers in support, judge advocate, chaplain and medical career fields. Also, most officers in rated staff positions are affected.
Lieutenants, however, will need only three years on base in order to do a CONUS to CONUS move.
This change in policy does not affect the time on station needed to move from a stateside base to an overseas base (12 months for first-term airmen and 24 months for all-others).
Airmen who get married to another Airman often seek out duty locations where they can do their Air Force job alongside their spouses.
This program is called Join Spouse. The Air Force works with these couples to help them find assignments that allow them to stay together. But another change to PCS policy increases the time married couples will need to serve on station before the Air Force will pay for a move to a Join Spouse assignment location.
Under the new PCS policy, Airmen must have 24 months on station before they can apply for a government-paid Join Spouse PCS. This doesn't mean it’s not possible to move sooner if manning permits, however, it just means the Air Force won't pay for the move before two years. If a suitable assignment is available prior to the 24 month period, and an Airman chooses to, he or she may pay their own way to move. This change affects both officers and enlisted.
Another set of changes to Air Force policy are more indirect, but they still affect PCS moves in the service. These changes involve adjusting manning percentages at both overseas and stateside bases. At a base in the United States, for instance, manning for an AFSC (job) must now be less than 85% before the Air Force will send more Airmen there. So if Base X has authorizations for 100 aircraft maintainers, it is okay for them to have only 85 maintainers assigned.
Should they fall lower then 85% manning, another maintainer could PCS in -- but not until then. Similar changes will happen overseas. Because the manning numbers have been changed both overseas and stateside, the Air Force will have to fill fewer vacancies, and that means fewer PCS moves.
Finally, the Air Force has extended by 12 months the tours of Airmen in jobs coded as Assignment Availability Code 50 (AAC 50). Airmen affected by this change are now serving in special jobs where the Air Force initially set an absolute limit on how long they could serve. Those limits have now been increased by 12 months. If you don’t know if this change affects you, check with your supervisor to determine if you are coded as AAC 50.
Above information courtesy of USAF. This article has been reprinted from the Air Force News Service from November 2006.