Dental hygienist is among the positions now eligible for a retention bonus by the Air Force.

Dental hygienist is among the positions now eligible for a retention bonus by the Air Force. (Cesar Navarro/U.S. Air Force)

The Air Force’s list of career specialties eligible for the Selective Retention Bonus program has edged up slightly to 39, but the number still remains low by historical standards due to the service’s record-high retention levels.

In January, the Air Force announced that 37 specialties were eligible for bonuses for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, a significant drop from the 72 qualifying positions in the previous year. The service offered bonuses in 115 specialties for fiscal year 2019.

The updated mid-2021 list is effective as of Wednesday, according to information posted online by the Air Force. The list applies to both Air Force and Space Force personnel.

Bonuses are aimed at improving retention of experienced airmen and space professionals in “stressed career fields” or in those that have high training costs, the Air Force said in a January news release.

Overall retention levels have been at record highs this year, according to Air Force officials.

The service expects to pay out more than $55 million in bonuses this year, a drop from the $150 million spent the previous year.

Among specialties now added are human intelligence specialist, target analyst, dental hygienist and tactical aircraft maintenance (5th generation) craftsman.

Among the jobs dropped from the January list are sensor operator and airborne cryptologic Korean language analyst.

Still in demand are Russian- and Chinese-language cryptologic analyst; pararescue; special reconnaissance; security forces dog handler; and explosive ordnance disposal.

A link to the complete list is posted at

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Wyatt Olson is based in the Honolulu bureau, where he has reported on military and security issues in the Indo-Pacific since 2014. He was Stars and Stripes’ roving Pacific reporter from 2011-2013 while based in Tokyo. He was a freelance writer and journalism teacher in China from 2006-2009.

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