Facing the choices of force management: Three important steps

  • Published
  • By Col. S. Clinton Hinote
  • 8th Fighter Wing commander
Tough choices lie ahead - for many of us individually and for the Air Force as a whole.

Due to financial constraints, Air Force leaders have made the tough choice to downsize the force. Right now, we do not know how many people will be let go, but this number may grow to as many as twenty-five thousand.

As the Department's budget solidifies, the number will firm up. In the meantime, the Air Force has released much information about the programs that will trim our force.

Perhaps the most important characteristic of these force management tools is that for almost every mandatory program, there is a voluntary program first. This means that if you can be cut through a mandatory program, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to explore all your options.

Some of the voluntary programs offer lucrative incentives. This may open a path for transitioning between careers or retiring early.

I'm eligible for one of these programs. In my case, it is the Enhanced Selective Early Retirement Board.

There is a voluntary retirement program that precedes this board, so I need to weigh my options. As I move forward, I'm taking three steps to ensure I make the best choice for myself and my family. I invite you to take these steps as well, so that you can make the best decision for yourself.

The first thing we need to do is to ensure our records are correct and up to date. In the past, I have helped many members under my command check their records. In my experience, I've never seen an officer check their records and found them to be entirely accurate.

The errors were usually minor - a missing medal citation or incorrect duty title, but sometimes the error was a big one, like a missing report.

In any case, it is imperative to correct each record, because it contains the information the board must use to make its decision. I'm going to make sure mine is right by going to the Air Force Portal, then selecting Air Force Personnel Center secure applications, then the Personnel Records Display Application.

The second step we should take is to explore all our options. We should learn as much as we can about the programs for which we are eligible, both voluntary and involuntary.

For each of these programs, there is a document called a Personnel Services Delivery Memorandum that contains all pertinent information. This is the source document, and it is the best place to get answers. We can find these documents--and other valuable information--on the Force Management page at https://myPers.af.mil/

Besides verifying our records and exploring our options, we need to have an honest discussion with our supervisors and/or commanders. It is critical that we get the best information possible to make our decisions, and these leaders are a primary source.

I want to communicate to my commander that I am seeking honest feedback about my performance and how I stack up against my peers, and it is okay if that feedback stings in the short term.

I would rather know the truth about my performance now rather than when I am handed my Retention Recommendation Form, when it might be too late to exercise my voluntary option.

As we approach our supervisors, we need to be both respectful and aggressive about seeking honest feedback.

For many of us, the future is uncertain and there are many things out of our control. That is why it is so important to do the things that are in our control, like correcting our records, understanding our options, and seeking honest feedback.

After doing these things, we can discuss our options with family, friends, and mentors and then make the best decision for our future. I wish you the best as you consider what is right for you.