Many overseas tours for new airmen and guardians extended an extra year
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 12, 2021
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The Air Force is extending overseas tour lengths from 24 to 36 months for unaccompanied airmen and Space Force guardians on their first permanent duty assignment at bases in Europe and the Pacific, the service said.
The change, which takes effect March 1, was first outlined last month in an Air Force memorandum. It applies to both enlisted service members and officers at nearly two dozen bases and locations, a statement said Thursday.
The duty stations include RAF Mildenhall, RAF Lakenheath, RAF Alconbury, RAF Croughton, London, Menwith Hill, Fairford, Welford, and Moleworth in the United Kingdom; Aviano Air Base, Italy; Stavanger Air Base, Norway; in Germany, all military assignments in the Kaiserslautern area, as well as at Spangdahlem Air Base; and Kadena, Yokota and Misawa air bases in Japan.
An unaccompanied overseas tour at a permanent duty station is one served without command-sponsored dependents, when dependents are authorized at that location.
The new tour length will give the unit more time to train and develop service members while providing them with more stability, the Air Force said.
“During these moves, service members not only have to adjust to their new jobs, but also to a new culture and country, which takes time,” Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said in the statement. “A 24-month tour was not adequate for our new Airmen and Guardians to thrive, nor was it enough time to provide the continuity needed for the unit.”
The policy does not apply to retrainees, those switching career fields and prior service members who receive a commission, the Air Force said. The overseas tour lengths for accompanied service members remain the same – 36 or 48 months – depending on the tour type.
In 2019, the Army extended tour lengths for single soldiers to Europe or Japan from 24 to 36 months under similar reasoning as the Air Force.
Airmen assigned to the 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron set up equipment during an exercise at RAF Lakenheath, England, Jan. 22, 2021. Starting March 1, 2021, the Air Force is extending overseas tour lengths from 24 to 36 months for unaccompanied airmen and Space Force members on their first permanent duty assignment at 22 of its bases in Europe and the Pacific.
JESSI MONTE/U.S. AIR FORCE