Air Force wing quickening skill level upgrades for enlisted airmen

One Air Force wing is giving its airmen a fast track in skill level upgrades if they finish their training and career development courses ahead of schedule.

The Air Force 1st Special Operations Wing is handing out waivers to some enlisted airmen who are stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire waiting to move to the next skill level.

Currently, airmen moving to the skill level of journeyman or craftsman must wait at least a year before they are awarded their rank.

But, 1st Special Operations Wing Commander Col. Thomas Palenske found some enlisted airmen were finishing their training and development before that one year period and were held back from moving to the next rank purely because they had to finish out the year.

In an April 2018 memo, Palenske stated his wing commanders will sign waivers for some airmen to move to the next rank without the waiting period.

“This time requirement hinders the unit’s ability to use trained professionals in crucial positions and cripples our airmen’s continuing education and the growth of our force. If our squadron commanders determine an airmen is capable of safely performing a series of tasks earlier, we should provide them to ability to increase their work capacity,” the memo stated.

Over the past few years the Air Force has been trying to cut back on unnecessary restrictions, training and duties burdening airmen.

These types of waivers may become more commonplace as the service continues to grow and its thirst for experienced and trained airmen becomes greater.

“The chief of staff of the Air Force’s number one priority is to empower leadership at the appropriate level. Understanding the pulse of this Wing and in line with guidance from the Air Force Secretary, the chief of staff of the Air Force and the Commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, Col. Palenske continues to reinvigorate” the squadron,”  TSgt. Katherine B. Holt, 1st Special Operations Wing spokeswoman, told Federal News Radio.

Palenske stated he recognized some hesitation to implement a change that conflicts with Air Force guidance, but his wing “is not going to wait to implement necessary change until [the instructions], publications and other documents are updated if the policies are outdated.”

Last year, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson ordered a two-year review of the instructions and policies to reduce the rules and outdated procedures airmen must follow. Wilson said the Air Force rescinded at least 100 instructions since the initial announcement last August.

“We are prioritizing the ones that are outdated and actually track them every month,” Wilson said in March. “The biggest challenge we have been facing is in personnel and operations. We need to get those right and get them understandable and then get the approval authorities, the waiver authorities at the lowest appropriate level.”

Wilson said that although these regulations are annoying for airmen and eliminating them can free up some time, the real reason for undertaking the task is the service will need to give airmen more responsibility in future wars. Communications may be degraded from leaders to lower level airmen as a result.

“We don’t expect in future conflict to have the exquisite command, control and communication we’ve had over the last 27 years of combat,” Wilson said. “We will need airmen to take what they know and take mission orders and execute the mission using their best judgement for the circumstances at the time. If we expect them to work that way in wartime then we need to treat them that way in peacetime.”

The Air Force has more than 1,400 instructions under review, which altogether account for more than 130,000 compliance items at the lowest levels.

Read more of the DoD Personnel Notebook.

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