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Air Force seeks improved retention through GI Bill test program

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Oct. 24, 2002) -- The Air Force will soon begin testing a retention tool designed to help some servicemembers provide for their family's education.

As part of the Montgomery GI Bill Transferability Test Program, members working in selected critical career fields will be able to transfer a portion of their MGIB benefits to one or more family members. Both commissioned and enlisted members will be eligible.

Senior Master Sgt. Joey Walker, chief of retention policy for the Air Force directorate of learning force development, said the program gives servicemembers another great reason to sign on the dotted line.

"There are many factors that influence a person's decision to stay in the Air Force," Walker said. "This is a great initiative we can use to target (Air Force career fields) experiencing low retention."

For enlisted members to take advantage of this targeted re-enlistment benefit, they must re-enlist between Oct. 1 and Sep. 30, 2003, have between six and 12 years time-in-service, already be eligible for MGIB benefits and work in one of the selected critical Air Force specialties.

The career fields for enlisted members include linguists, firefighters and communications computer system programmers. Officer career fields include developmental engineers, scientists and civil engineers. To be eligible, these officers must meet the same time-in-service requirement as enlisted members, agree to incur a four-year active-duty service commitment during fiscal 2003 and already be eligible for MGIB benefits.

Air Force members meeting the eligibility criteria for the test program will be able to transfer up to 18 months of their MGIB benefits to their spouse, children or a combination of both.

Implementation plans for the proposed policy are being reviewed by officials at the Air Force Personnel Center, so the program has not yet been activated; however, servicemembers who meet the criteria and who have already extended their service commitment will be eligible for the benefit.

"The program is not active yet because we have not sent implementation procedures out to the field," said Jim Sweizer, chief of the voluntary education branch for the Air Force directorate of learning and force development. "But everybody who meets the criteria and who extends (his or her) active-duty service commitment during fiscal 2003 is still eligible for this benefit."

All those taking advantage of the benefits of the test program will eventually be surveyed to determine the weight of the MGIB transferability option on their decision to extend their time in service. The results of the survey will help determine the continuation of the program.

Servicemembers wanting more information about the Montgomery GI Bill Transferability Test Program should contact their local education office.