ARLINGTON, Va. — More than 3,000 Air Force sergeants have less than two months to decide whether to volunteer to leave their overstrength career field for one in need of more airmen, or to sit tight and risk having the service choose a new field for them.

The noncommissioned officers have until Oct. 14 to volunteer to retrain into one of the career fields that Air Staff say are understrength, Command Sgt. Maj. Terrence Reed, chief of the skills management branch at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, said in a telephone interview.

Letters have gone out to some master, technical and staff sergeants (E-7, E-6 and E-5), notifying them that they are candidates, according to officials from the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph.

These “vulnerable” airmen are in 30 job fields, or Air Force Specialty Codes, that the Pentagon has determined have too many people, Reed told Stripes on Thursday.

If the Air Force does not get enough volunteers to fill the 1,100 slots it needs to balance over- and understrength fields, the service will go into “phase two” of the retraining program, telling NCOs they must retrain and into which AFSC, Reed said.

Personnel officers have learned they need to identify three airmen for each retraining slot, Tech. Sgt. Catina Johnson-Roscoe, NCO in charge of Air Force Enlisted Retraining at Randolph, said during the Thursday interview.

The additional notifications “give us a little leeway in case of emergency,” Johnson-Roscoe said: Deployments, overseas assignments, or personal reasons prevent some NCOs from attending the necessary schools.

For example, during the fiscal 2005 Noncommissioned Officer Retraining Program, the Air Force also determined 1,100 NCOs needed to retrain.

But just 338 NCOs volunteered, leaving the Air Force to fill the remaining roster with airmen who did not have a choice in the matter, she said.

If the Air Force has to go to the involuntary phase for the 2006 retraining process, it would likely begin in early December, after the Air Staff has had time to analyze the results of the volunteer program and recalculate the rebalancing equations for each AFSC.

Last year, the involuntary phase lasted from Dec. 2, 2004, to March 31, 2005, Reed said.

Meanwhile, Reed said, airmen who have been notified should seriously consider volunteering to retrain into another specialty.

“If you don’t volunteer during the volunteer phase, the Air Force [might] decide the specialty for you,” Reed said.

“Take your career into your own hands.”

To view the vulnerability listings by grade and AFSC list (updated weekly) go to: and click on the retraining link. This site requires a password to access.

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