What You Need to Know About Two-Year Air Force Enlistment Options

Brig Gen Anthony Cotton, 45th Space Wing Commander, delivers the oath of enlistment to 30 of the Air Force's newest recruits in a ceremony at Space Launch Complex 14's blockhouse at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, on August 10, 2012.
45thSpaceWing/Flikr/CC BY 2.0

As part of a Congressional initiative called the National Call to Service, the Air Force and other branches of the U.S. military introduced shorter enlistment cycles. The goal of the program was to let people serve their country who might otherwise shy away from a regular four- or six-year active-duty enlistment.

In the Air Force, the 15-month obligation for these airmen does not begin until they complete their initial training—​basic military training and technical training school.

When airmen near the end of their enlistment, they have the opportunity to choose whether to extend their active-duty commitment for 24 months, or join the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve for the same length of time.

After the additional two years of service are complete, these airmen still have another four years of service to fulfill.

Reenlisting After National Call to Service

This service  requirement can be met in the Air Force either by re-enlisting in the active-duty Air Force, extending a Guard or Reserve commitment, transferring to the Individual Ready Reserves, or participating in another national-service program such as Americorps or the Peace Corps.

Not all Air Force jobs are available under the National Call to Service program, only certain specialties. Some of these specialties will have specific requirements, such as civilian certification or training, that prospective airmen must possess before being considered for entry into the career field.

Airmen who enlist under the program can pick one of three special incentives. These include a $5,000 cash bonus, $10,000 student-loan repayment for qualified loans, or education assistance benefits comparable to the Montgomery GI Bill.

If they choose to re-enlist, airmen retain their chosen incentive and can elect to participate in the MGIB.

Part of the goal of National Call to Service was to introduce people to the military and give them a taste for what serving in the armed forces is like. It was aimed at those who wanted to serve but didn't want to make a career of the military.

Call to Service in Other Branches

The Air Force isn't the only branch of the U.S. military to offer reduced tour-of-duty incentives. The Navy, Army and Marines have all offered some variety of a Call to Service in the post-911 era.

For instance, also in 2003, the Navy announced a similar program that required 15 months of active duty service after a sailor had completed Navy school. At the time, the Navy said the Call to Service was geared toward top performing high school students looking for a meaningful experience between high school and college.

It's interesting to note that while this was a popular option among new recruits and some members of Congress (who voted to implement the new rule), not everyone in the military is in favor of two-year enlistment incentives. Some military brass don't believe it doesn't provide personnel for long enough periods of time before they move into the active reserves.

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