Airmail: How does the Air Force take care of their own while downsizing?

  • Published
  • By Col. Robert E. Suminsby Jr.
  • 377th Air Base Wing commander
I had the chance to read your article in the Nov. 3 Nucleus and I have a question. How are you "taking care of your own" with regard to the above subject? My concern is with Airmen who may not have a place in the new Air Force because of technological advancements. Are they being offered different positions in the Air Force? Why are some Airmen being let go? How will the Air Force provide for transition to civilian life?

Have or will they provide counseling at a mental health facility for those that may become depressed regarding this downsizing?

I have many more questions but I believe that these are the most important at this time. Could you please provide an explanation?

Thank you for your question. Let me begin with the reason the Air Force is getting smaller. The President's Fiscal Year 2007 Budget directs an Air Force end strength reduction of 40,000 by fiscal 2011. Based on current projected figures, we will not be able to meet our end strength numbers.

The fiscal 2007 Force Shaping Program maximizes our voluntary separation authorities and implements involuntary shaping programs as required. The first job of the Air Force is to defend the United States with the resources we are given by Congress. So while the Air Force is not a social agency, we try to take care of own, even as they transition out of the service.

Retraining into another career field within the Air Force is a tool used to help balance the enlisted force and provides an avenue for individuals working in career fields with too many people to move into career fields that do not have enough people, thus giving them an opportunity to stay in the Air Force.

Personnel separating from the Air Force are offered transition assistance benefits. The amount and type of benefits will vary depending on the reason for separation (voluntary, involuntary, honorable, under honorable conditions, etc.) and how long the member served in the Air Force.

There are a myriad of voluntary and involuntary programs through which individuals may be separated from the Air Force and each comes with its own incentives. Some of the incentives may include separation pay, Montgomery GI Bill educational benefits, travel entitlements or medical coverage.

Personnel are required to visit the Airman and Family Readiness Center for a one-on-one briefing to receive information and assistance regarding personnel, education, legal, and veteran and health benefits. Also, as part of their separation out-processing, they receive information regarding separation pay, base privileges and opportunities for civil service employment. Again, depending on the type of separation and amount of time served in the Air Force.

Any Air Force member, whether directly or indirectly affected by downsizing may seek assistance at our life skills facility. Additionally, the Airman and Family Readiness Center also provides avenues for counseling. Finally, our fine chapel staff always stand ready to assist any member in need.

Getting smaller is not the course of action that any of us within the Air Force would choose, but it is a path we must pursue to maintain our combat capability with the resources we have available. While downsizing isn't easy, we remain committed to taking care of our people, both those who remain in the Air Force and those who make the transition to a civilian career.