KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Air Force leaders are considering permanently adding another month to Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotations starting with the next deployment cycle, a senior AEF leader said Monday.

Airmen now deploy for three months under the AEF structure, then remain home for 12 months. Under the new schedule being considered by Air Force major commands, airmen would deploy for four months, then remain at home for 16 months, said Col. Buck Jones, deputy director for AEF matters. “If the decision were made to go with the four-month deployment, over a given period of time an individual would find themselves deployed about the same amount in a 20-month cycle instead of a 15-month cycle,” Jones said.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper asked commanders during policy meetings last week in Alaska to make recommendations on the extension.

Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Stephanie Holcombe said the recommendations are expected this week.

Commanders constantly are evaluating whether the AEF concept is working, Jones said. An additional month of deployment may provide a more stable force for combatant commanders in deployed locations, he said.

“The primary thing that it provides the combatant commander is better continuity in the area of operations,” Jones said.

As of May 10, 26,695 airmen were deployed worldwide. The bulk of the forces — 16,968 — were in the Central Command area of operations, which includes the Persian Gulf region, according to Air Force statistics.

If Jumper decides to extend the rotation length, airmen deploying in AEF Cycle 5, which starts in September would likely be the first affected, Jones said.

Under the current schedule, airmen deploy for 90 days, then remain home to train, participate in exercises and spend time with their families for 12 months. That cycle was broken in early 2003 when Operation Iraqi Freedom called for additional troops.

After major combat operations ended last May, the Air Force established two 120-day rotations to help cover the need for additional troops.

By early March this year, the Air Force returned to 90-day rotations — except for high-demand airmen such as security forces and civil engineers who often have to deploy as long as six months.

Holcombe said the service may also consider moving those airmen in high-demand fields to permanent four-month rotations.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now