MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. – Headquarters Air Force ROTC has reduced the number of years enlisted cadre serve at detachments from four to three years.
Effective March 1, the reduction aligns the tour length with those of other special duty assignments, such as military training instructors and leaders, stateside enlisted professional military education instructors and technical training instructors.
“The reduction allows these professional Airmen the opportunity to serve outside their operational career field for a short time, gain insight, mentor our future leaders and then return quicker to their career field more experienced well-rounded NCOs,” said Chief Master Sgt. Nichole Dunton, Headquarters AFROTC senior enlisted leader.
Currently, all 276 personnelist and administration noncommissioned officer positions at the 145 ROTC detachments are filled, she said.
The reduction affects Airmen who arrived for detachment duty on or after Jan. 1, 2019. Those Airmen will have to apply for a one-year extension if they want to stay for the original four years.
For Tech. Sgt. Anna Stevens, who started her job as a personnelist at the Boston University detachment in April 2019, the one-year extension is an attractive option, but she chose not to apply for it, wanting to return to her operational career field to “give myself a chance to continue to grow both personally and professionally.”
Resiliency was another deciding factor in reducing the assignments, Dunton said.
“Some of these detachments are not near a military installation,” she said. “So, these Airmen don’t have access to base services, such as commissaries or child care centers, as those serving near a military installation. After a while, you tend to miss not having access to base services.”
That reasoning resonates with one NCO who, though not affected by the reduction, agrees that four years is a long time to be away from one’s career field and the services typically found at a military base.
“At some point, we have to go back to our career fields and get certified or recertified with our main duties,” said Tech. Sgt. Sarah Garcia, a personnelist with the detachment at San Jose State University, California. “Also, depending on where the detachment is, four years is a long time to be away from an operational base. One thing I miss about being at a base is the military community and convenience of services available.”
Garcia’s and Stevens’ feelings on the reduction are exactly why ROTC leadership decided to make the change.
“Our enlisted cadre are making a tremendous impact not only on day-to-day detachment operations, but also on the professional and personal development of our future Air Force and Space Force officers,” said Col. Christopher Bennett, Headquarters AFROTC commander. “The change balances the role these NCOs fulfill in our detachments with the need to reintegrate them to their operational career fields in a timely manner. I believe this is a win-win for everyone.”