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Being prepared to face force management

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Brian Thornock
  • 90th Logistic Readiness Squadron
It is time to face the facts: the Air Force is getting smaller. We are here to provide for the defense of our nation and the military needs to maintain the right-size force to do it. The debate will go on as to the optimal size of the military, but there is no debate that we simply cannot afford the size of the current force.

I, like many, received an email prodding me to consider retirement or early separation. To be honest, the decision has caused me a lot of stress. I understand the Air Force needs to reach an end-strength that is sustainable, but I am just not ready to leave.

Ready or not, I may not have a choice. I have taken the following steps to help me decide what I am going to do, and I would urge all who are vulnerable to do the same.

Assess the risk
Open your personal records and look through them. How do you think they will stand up against your peers? Talk to your leadership to help determine the risk of cuts within your career field. Read all of the force shaping information and guidance available on the MyPers website and revisit regularly for any update.

Know the options
Can you apply for Temporary Early Retirement or Voluntary Separation Pay? When would you have to leave the Air Force? What benefits will you receive? Attend a Transition Assistance Program seminar.

Discuss it with family
Leaving the military will affect the whole family. Can we make up the difference in pay? Where would we live? Is it the right thing for us now? Is this a good opportunity for us to make a change in our lives?

After looking at these three areas I have opted to stay and face the retention board. I expect that I will be retained this year but am not positive. What about next year and beyond?

The force shaping measures may be in effect for the next five years. Force shaping has made me think about my future outside the Air Force. Whether I leave this year, next or beyond, I realize I need to start taking measures to prepare myself. Whether you look at force shaping as an opportunity to take your life in a different direction or hoping to continue your service, a little planning never hurts.

In order to prepare for my eventual retirement, I am now asking some tough questions. Questions I probably should have had answers to long ago.

What do I want to do when I retire? Am I going to pursue a job in the field that I have worked for the last 20+ years or will I explore completely different opportunities?

Am I marketable? I definitely need to finish my Bachelor's Degree, but do I need to earn any certifications or take additional courses to make me competitive in the job market?

My wife is in the Navy. If she is still on active duty when I retire, will we live where the Navy sends us? And what about afterwards? Will we live near family, stay where we are at or move somewhere completely new?

The questions we need answered to prepare ourselves for life after the uniform will be different for all of us. The important thing is to figure out what those questions are and get the answers.

These are tough times for a lot of us. We don't know exactly what the future holds. We can, and should, make educated decisions about our desires for the future while preparing for any outcome.