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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — A new Air Force policy will allow some seniors to finish their high school days with current classmates rather than be “the new kid” for their last year of school due to their parents’ orders.

The High School Seniors Assignment Deferment Program allows Air Force personnel to apply for a one-year assignment deferment, according to Chip Steitz, Kadena’s 18th Wing spokesman. The program is open to all senior master sergeants and below and officers up to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Steitz said back-to-back deferments are possible and families with two active-duty servicemembers also may apply.

Steitz said Air Force officials have estimated that 20 percent to 25 percent of officers and senior enlisted servicemembers have children entering their senior year. Almost one-third of those servicemembers could be eligible for re-assignment during any year.

Active-duty members who want to take advantage of this program must apply through their personnel center, said Lt. Col. David Southerland, commander of the 18th Mission Support Squadron. “Approval is not automatic and will be based on balancing the needs of the Air Force and promoting family stability,” he said.

Officers must apply before being given an assignment, but enlisted personnel may apply after receiving orders, Southerland said.

“The purpose of the program is to alleviate, as much as possible, stresses experienced by families,” he said. “The Air Force looks at this as a way to increase the quality of life for families by decreasing turbulence and increasing stability for military families.”

Jeff Martin, chief of staff for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific region, echoed the sentiment that continuity is good for the student and family.

“This program should assist with family morale, knowing that the student would be able to finish their high school career at the school they have been attending for a number of years,” Martin said. “It is difficult to leave school at the end of the junior year or part way through the senior and have to start at a new school.” Martin added the deferment program shouldn’t result in school overcrowding but should help stability in the schools.

To qualify for the program, Steitz said, the soon-to-be senior must be living with the servicemember requesting the deferment and must be enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.

Martin said all students accepted into the program would be guaranteed a spot in a DODDS school and will be accepted into the school automatically when their sponsor produces orders showing an extension.

The Army instituted a similar program in April 2001.

Though the Navy does not have a comparable official policy, detailers who write orders “strive to accommodate the family needs of each sailor,” said Lt. Chris Servello, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

The Marine Corps “works with servicemembers and their families if there is a conflict” with orders, said Capt. Jeff Landis, a Marine Corps spokesman at Quantico Marine Corps Base, Va.

Carlos Bongioanni contributed to this report.


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