Early retirement called 'great opportunity' for AF members
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 30, 2013
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The Air Force’s 15-year retirement incentive is a good deal — if you can get it, say military personnel experts at Ramstein Air Base.
The service’s goal is to offer early retirement to about 600 enlisted members and 100 officers under the Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA), a program approved by the secretary of the Air Force on July 24, according to airmen with Ramstein’s military personnel flight.
The personnel specialists answered questions Tuesday at a town hall briefing about the programs the Air Force is using to help cut about 1,860 airmen by the end of next fiscal year to meet its authorized end strength of 327,600. Most of those measures, so far, are voluntary, including TERA, a program that allows eligible enlisted airmen and officers with at least 15 years of service to apply for early retirement.
“I think it’s an absolute great opportunity for folks,” said Master Sgt. Ryan Norton, the career development superintendent for the 786th Force Support Squadron military personnel flight, considering an airman could “drop five years” and get about 45 percent of base pay in retirement benefits, instead of the traditional 50 percent earned after 20 years of service.
“Unfortunately, it’s only 600 [enlisted] people,” he said. “Across the Air Force, it’s less than 1 percent.”
At Ramstein alone, an estimated 1,500 airmen are eligible for TERA, based on a broad look at career specialties and years of service, said Capt. Scott Simoneaux, commander of the military personnel flight.
TERA is open to technical sergeants, master sergeants, captains, majors and lieutenant colonels with between 15 and 19 years of service in most career fields, with a few exceptions.
Airmen accepted for early retirement would receive traditional retirement pay, minus 1 percentage point for each year short of 20 years.
“I think it’s an excellent deal,” said Tech. Sgt. Jason Simpson, 36, who attended the Tuesday morning briefing to find out more about the program.
An aircraft maintainer with “17 years and change” in the service, Simpson said he and his wife, who recently earned a college degree and is eager to return to the States to find a job, are weighing their options. He figures he’ll lose about $220 a month in retirement pay before taxes if he chooses to retire early.
The Air Force isn’t giving airmen much time to consider its offer: The deadline for applying is Aug. 19. Applications will be approved or denied, with airmen notified of the decision, by Sept. 1. Airmen approved for early retirement will have to leave the service by Nov. 1.
That timeline is too soon for some airmen he knows, Simpson said. Especially for airmen overseas, it doesn’t allow enough time for people to find a job before retiring, he said. “A lot of people are turned off” by that, he said.
Unlike the early retirement incentive offered last year by the Air Force, applications for this year’s TERA won’t be processed on a “first come, first-served” basis, Simoneaux said. Those with no active-duty service commitments will be approved first, he said. After that, other factors considered will be the number of active-duty service commitment waivers being requested. For example, airmen serving overseas can waive up to 18 months left on their tour commitment. Also, service obligations incurred for transferring G.I. Bill education benefits to dependents can also be waived under TERA, officials said.
Time in grade and a commander’s recommendation will also be considered. Squadron commanders have to approve an airman’s application for early retirement, officials said.
The Air Force last week announced one upcoming involuntary separation measure for some officers: It plans to convene selective early retirement boards for full colonels and lieutenant colonels in December.
The military personnel flight will hold another briefing on Air Force force-shaping initiatives on Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the Hercules Theater on Ramstein. Airmen can also get more information online by going to the myPers website and entering “Force Management” in the search window.