Several 108th Wing airmen re-enlist at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 11, 2017.

Several 108th Wing airmen re-enlist at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 11, 2017. (Armando Vasquez/U.S. Air Force)

The Air Force is backtracking on a policy that blocked airmen who failed to complete professional military education from re-enlisting.

Effective Wednesday, airmen are no longer required to finish their PME by a 12-month deadline to re-enlist or extend their service, an Air Force statement said.

PME are military educational requirements, such as correspondence or academy courses, that servicemembers often must take before advancing in rank.

Airmen who had received a re-enlistment ineligibility code because of the policy should see it removed from their record, the statement said. PME will still be required for promotion.

The rule, introduced in December 2014, was unpopular and unneeded, said Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services.

“The policy added unnecessary challenges and distractions to our Airmen,” Grosso, who approved the change, said in an Air Force statement. “We certainly heard and listened to Airmen on this matter.”

Roughly 9,300 airmen had missed the deadline and were ineligible for promotion or re-enlistment since December 2014, according to a report last month from the Air Force Times.

The change will give squadron commanders more say in retention, the statement said. More than 170 airmen separated from the service between Jan. 1 and March 15 because of the policy, according to internal Air Force public-affairs documents posted on a Facebook page.

“Now the commanders who are most familiar with an airman’s potential can make the call whether they’ll be retained or not,” said Master Sgt. Cristian Martinez, optometry flight chief for the 374th Medical Group at Yokota Air Base, Japan. “I think it’s a great change.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Leon Cook contributed to this report.

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