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Air Force changes deployment lengths for some 42,000 airmen

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The Air Force is increasing all combat deployments to 179 days, a move that will affect about 42,000 airmen whose deployments were typically shorter in duration.

Based on career fields, the Air Force places airmen in deployment categories, known as tempo bands, which denote how frequently an airman deploys. Those in Tempo Band A — which includes firefighters, some chaplains, enlisted financial managers, recruiters and historians — were expected to deploy for 120 days, while those in other tempo bands deployed for 179 days.

Under the new policy, those in Tempo Band A will be moved into Tempo Band B and start deploying for 179 days as well. The change will take effect at the beginning of the year, Air Force officials announced late last week.

The increase in deployment duration is an effort to “improve predictability and stability for airmen and their families,” Lt. Col. Belinda Petersen, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, said in an e-mail. In the two years since the Air Force began using the tempo band concept, airmen who were supposed to deploy for 120 days were frequently tasked for 179-day deployments because of manning and resource requirements from deployed commanders, Petersen said.

By revising the policy, airmen affected by the change will also “ideally” get more time at home, she said. The dwell time for those airmen is expected to increase from 16 to 24 months, Peterson said.

In the Air Force release announcing the change, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said if that goal can’t be sustained, a higher tempo will be implemented.

Deployment and dwell times of the other tempo bands will remain unchanged, with one exception: Combat Air Forces — fighters, bombers and special operations — will transition to a new six-month deployment tasking starting this month. And those airmen will see dwell times increase from 12 to 18 months.

Full implementation of the new deployment schedule is expected by October 2012, Air Force officials said.

The service currently has about 1,500 airmen, crossing all career fields, who are deployed longer than six months.

Those in Tempo Band E — civil engineers, contractors, intelligence and security forces — are among the busiest in the Air Force, with six-month deployments, followed by only six months at home.

svanj@estripes.osd.mil

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