Last week, the Air Force put stop-loss restrictions on 99 officer and enlisted career fields to prevent those with critical skills from leaving the service after May 2.

Affecting about 21,000 airmen, the decision was made to retain active duty, ready reserve and Air National Guard members possessing the capabilities needed for current missions and contingencies, including the war on terrorism, officials say.

Stop loss covers servicemembers ranked airmen through colonel but not “those who are deployed,” Mitchell added.

To accompany the stop loss, personnel officials have set up a waiver process for people with special circumstances.

“Waivers could be for financial hardships or for humanitarian reasons,” Mitchell said — for instance, a reservist ordered to active duty under stop loss.

“If that person stands a risk of losing his job because of being called to active duty, that could be considered a hardship in some instances,” Mitchell said.

Medical hardships also could qualify under humanitarian waivers.

Waiver requests are initiated at a base’s military personnel flight, then forwarded to the service’s personnel center in Texas. They’re sent to the member’s major air command for a final decision.

“The major air command’s commander or vice commander is the final approval or disapproval authority,” Mitchell said.

Also this week, Air Force officials clarified that the new stop-loss policy does not mean permanent changes of station have been restricted: No stop-movement policy has been enacted.

“Stop movement is when you stop all assignments. It is an assignment issue,” Master Sgt. Randy Mitchell, spokesman for the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, said Wednesday.

Stop loss, said Mitchell, refers to keeping people within especially needed career fields from retiring or separating from the Air Force.

“The confusion came from people overseas and deployed not being able to return stateside because they are effectively stop-lossed ‘in-place’ to meet mission requirements at their current location,” said Mitchell.

The key date airmen need to watch remains May 2.

That’s the cutoff for the latest stop-loss initiative, announced Friday.

“Those with approved retirements or dates of separations between May 2 and Dec. 1, 2003, are affected,” Mitchell said. “This is an initial number and includes 7,500 active duty airmen.”

During stop-loss action following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, 80 percent of waivers were approved, he said — adding that he’s unaware of the percentage that may be approved under the latest stop-loss action.

Among the 28,711 enlisted troops in Pacific Air Forces, that action may affect 166 in 56 career fields, said Capt. Heather Zwicker, a spokeswoman at PACAF headquarters in Hawaii.

In commissioned ranks, 61 of 4,188 officers in PACAF are affected by the stop-loss action, accounting for 43 of 475 specialties.

Some career fields within PACAF affected by stop loss, Zwicker said, include air operations, security forces, legal, medical, linguists, intelligence, investigations, civil engineering and communications.

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