Career Focus: Make the right decision for yourself and family

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, New Mexico -- On the last Wednesday of every month, I conduct a Right Decision Seminar for first and second term Airmen who are 12 to 15 months away from the end of their enlistments.

This briefing provides information to help Airmen make an informed re-enlistment decision.

The briefing begins with speeches from Kirtland's command chiefs.

They provide career perspectives and discuss factors that motivated them to re-enlist. It's interesting to hear them say that they never intended to make the Air Force a career. Instead, they intended to serve four years then pursue other dreams. However, they changed their minds after considering the tangible and intangible benefits our Air Force provides like superior benefits, job skills, camaraderie and family atmosphere. After the chiefs' introduction, attendees are given a financial management briefing.

The financial briefing introduces Airmen to prudent investment strategies. Topics discussed include individual retirement accounts, the Thrift Savings Plan, compound interest and mutual funds. This briefing provides valuable information to those who separate or stay. The financial briefing is followed by a military personnel programs briefing.

The personnel program briefings cover retraining, assignments, re-enlistment, promotions and other programs. For many Airmen, it's the first time they've heard about these programs. It's also an excellent time for Airmen to ask questions and receive solid answers. The Right Decision Seminar culminates with a benefits and entitlements briefing.

When I discuss Air Force benefits, I start by comparing civilian and military compensation plans. Suffice it to say, the Air Force is very competitive. Moreover, I discuss three things Airmen will need to do if they leave the Air Force: have a plan, have a marketable skill and education, and get a job that pays $15 per hour. If an Airman leaves with these things in mind, they will most likely succeed. Unfortunately, many of the folks I meet are not prepared.

Many Airmen separate without a plan. They fall victim to the common belief that anything different is better.

Military careers are demanding and stressful but so are civilian careers. In fact, many civilians are jealous of the benefits we have such as free medical, cheap life insurance and nonchargeable time off to attend appointments. Civilian life is different, but that doesn't mean it's better.

The Air Force also provides excellent job and skills training resources that many folks do not use. It is extremely wise to maximize your educational opportunities before separating.

Additionally, many Airmen squander educational opportunities while serving. This fact is especially tragic when the Air Force pays up to $4,500 dollars per year in tuition assistance.

Finally, Airmen intent on separating should seek employment that pays $15 per hour. An Airman with one year time in service makes about $15 per hour. Civilians who make less than $15 per hour generally have less access to employee benefit programs like health insurance, retirement plans and vacation days. Check out the following link to the U.S. Department of Labor to test this claim: www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/sp/ebsm0004.pdf.

The Air Force provides great benefits and opportunities for career and personal advancement. This is the primary message of Right Decision Seminars. I never attempt to trick or deceive anyone to stay in the Air Force. I present the facts and allow the attendees to make the decision. If folks choose to leave, I thank them for their service. For those who choose to stay, I welcome them back. My mission is to help Airmen make the right decision for themselves and their families.

If you would like information about Right Decision Seminars give me a call at 846-6636 or e-mail me at joseph.mulcahy@kirtland.af.mil. Supervisors and spouses are always welcome and encouraged to attend.

See you in the wings!