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It is a well known fact that the US Air Force is facing huge staff shortages across all grades and skills. Various incentives have been offered to help stem the mass exodus of pilots to the commercial sector, however the latest initiatives involve retaining field-grade officers (who mainly command troops) as just under 1 in 10 of these jobs are vacant (1 in 4 for nonrated field-grade officers).

To keep airmen in service and to deal with the shortages, the US Air Force recently announced several measures – last month any Captain who was recommended for promotion and had an unblemished conduct record was advanced to the rank of Major.

In an additional measure, it has now been announced that some Colonels will be eligible to remain on active duty for three years past their retirement date.

Normally, Colonels not selected for promotion to one star must retire after 30 years of service. However in the attempt to retain personnel, an Air Force Board will look at the records of 50 line officer Colonels who will be required to retire between Feb. 1, 2018, and Feb. 1, 2019. Those eligible will then have the choice whether to remain for an additional three years.  

Col. Jeff O’Donnell, Air Force Colonels Group Director, said:

“It can take 21 years to develop a line officer to become a Colonel who may then serve up to 30 years.” He continued: “And as the Air Force is growing end strength, we need experienced leaders to serve and lead across the Department of Defense.”

A spokesperson for the Air Force said any eligible officers should have been notified by Dec. 31