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ARLINGTON, Va. — Most Air Force members will now spend a minimum of four years stationed at military bases in the United States, instead of just three, Air Force officials announced Thursday.

The time on-station extension from 36 months to 48 months for officers and enlisted airmen is the most significant change announced in a Nov. 2 Air Force message on permanent change of station, or PCS, initiatives.

The measure is a “cost-saving initiative,” according to Letty Inabinet, chief of the Air Force Personnel Center’s assignment program and procedures branch at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

But “more significantly, the changes will also increase family stability,” Inabinet told Stars and Stripes on Thursday. “We’ve already gotten a lot of feedback [from airmen] embracing [the idea of] staying on station longer.”

Overseas tours are staying the same — 36 months for moves where members are accompanied by their command-sponsored dependents, and 24 months for unaccompanied tours.

However, the Air Force will encourage people to remain overseas longer voluntarily, Inabinet said — particularly officers, who tend to extend their foreign tours less frequently than do enlisted personnel.

The initiative offers no new incentives to encourage longer overseas tours, but it does tighten up the rules to make it more difficult to get overseas tours cut short, according to the message.

Exceptions will include humanitarian reassignments.

For example, airmen who are serving overseas who want to come back to the United States before their tour is over can now get a waiver “for mission requirements” only, the message said.

And such waivers must be requested by “a general officer, colonel wing commander or their equivalents,” the message said.

The initiative also extends the time required for what the Air Force calls “funded join-spouse assignments” from 12 months to 24 months for officers and enlisted airmen who are moving either within the continental United States, or from the U.S. to a base overseas.

“Join-spouse assignments” are situations where two airmen are married and one gets a new assignment. The partner then decides to volunteer to relocate (“permissive PCS”) along with his or her spouse.

In the past, if both military couples had spent at least 12 months at their posts — “time on station,” in Air Force jargon — they could move under the join spouse program at government expense, Capt. Sharon Branick, a spokeswoman at Randolph, told Stripes Nov. 2.

But under the new initiative, if one married airman does not have at least 24 months time on station, he or she will not be authorized a government-funded move.

However, the initiative says that the couple may still request a permissive join spouse move if the 24-month requirement hasn’t been met.

Under the permissive join spouse program, an airman who is half of a couple must have at least 12 months time on station, and agree to pay for all expenses related to the move upfront, Branick said.

The initiative sets new rules for junior officers — specifically lieutenants, but also chaplains, members of the medical corps and JAGs in the grades of captain and above, who have less than four years of commissioned active service.

Previously, these members could move to a new posting after just one year at a given base.

Now, they will have to wait three years before changing stations.

These officers may be considered for an overseas move before the three years are up, “but they must be the most qualified, eligible and have the most time on station,” the message says.

The message spells out changes to an assignment status that personnel officials call “Code 50,” which is a U.S.-based “stabilized” tour that spells out a minimum and maximum time an airman must spend at a particular base, Inabinet said.

Code 50 assignments are those that take an airman outside of his or her particular field of specialization, Inabinet said, such as asking someone to become a school instructor, or take a particular kind of staff job.

For career development reasons and to maintain proficiency at a perishable skill, such as flying, the Air Force puts a definite end to the Code 50 so the airman can get back to his or her field and retain skills, she said.

The new initiative extends Code 50 tours by 12 months for everyone except career enlisted aviators and rated officers in flying positions, who are exempt from the extension, according to the message.

To see the entire message, go to

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