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ARLINGTON, Va. — Enlisted airmen in overmanned career fields are starting to volunteer for the Air Force’s 2008 retraining program, which has 900 career field and special duty positions that need filling.

The 2008 Noncommissioned Officer Retraining Program began Aug. 7, and the officials at the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, already have “a couple hundred [volunteer] packages at various stages of completion,” according to Chief Master Sgt. Christine Williams.

Eleven NCOs have been approved for retraining, said Williams, who is chief of the Air Force Personnel Center enlisted skills management branch, in a Monday telephone interview.

The Air Force restarted an annual NCO retraining program as part of its “force shaping” efforts in 2003, the first time it had used retraining extensively since the late 1990s.

It’s a way to balance the enlisted force, Williams said.

For this year’s program, airmen who are vulnerable for retraining have until Sept. 21 to offer to retrain.

As usual, when the hands stop going up, the Air Force starts telling noncommissioned officers who are going to retrain into the remaining slots.

Anyone who gets an involuntary assignment, but subsequently refuses to make the switch, will be treated in the same way as any servicemember who refuses an assignment: they will become ineligible for promotion and re-enlistment.

With volunteer retraining packages continuing to come in daily, “we anticipate we won’t get to phase II [the nonvoluntary phase] until the middle to the end of November, in order to give everyone that’s a volunteer a chance to complete the process,” Williams said.

“We’ll delay phase II until we’re absolutely positive” that everyone who wants to volunteer has had a chance to submit his request package, which can take up to eight weeks for individuals requiring a flight physical, Williams said.

The 2008 retraining program is seeking fewer airmen than in past years, Williams said. In 2007, the number was 1,073; in other years the number has been 1,200 airmen or more.

But the real change is the number of AFSCs that need rebalancing, which in 2008 “has been cut nearly in half” compared to 2007, she said.

“I believe it’s because the program’s working,” she said.

In 2008, there are 14 jobs that are listed in the program as overmanned. And several of those Air Force specialty codes, including the security forces AFSC and four different medical AFSCs, are actually requiring personal to retrain into “shreds,” or sub-specialties (like dog handlers for the security personnel, or urology for surgical services), not new jobs altogether.

Randolph sends e-mails to those vulnerable airmen, asking them to volunteer to move to a different job.

The Air Force also lists vulnerability listings by grade and AFSC on its password-protected virtual Military Personnel Flight page, at http://ask.afpc.randolph.af.mil/.

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