Follow-On option to Airmen taking short tours

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JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — Airmen selected for a dependent-restricted short tour for their second or later assignments can voluntarily apply to participate in the Follow-On assignment program, providing them greater flexibility in the assignment process and greater stability for their families.

The Department of Defense designed the Follow-On assignment program to provide all service members, officers and enlisted, with family stability, as well as to decrease permanent change of station costs. The application is a voluntary agreement with the Airman not to use PCS allowances in exchange for advance assignment consideration of a stateside assignment before they leave on a dependent-restricted short-tour assignment. The Air Force processes follow-on assignments to overseas locations as an exception to policy.

“The Air Force has a placement rate of 70.8 percent for follow-on assignments for the enlisted force in 2017,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jennifer Holton, superintendent of the Support Career Management branch at the Air Force’s Personnel Center. “As long as Airmen are putting down realistic location choices based on authorizations that exist at the desired follow-on locations, we’ve been successful at giving them what they want.”

If an Airman chooses a follow-on, the family can stay at the current stateside location or elect to move to the location of their follow-on assignment, providing it, too, is stateside. The program provides stability to the family for work, residence and schooling, with the option to stay in place for another year or be in place at the new location a year or more early, prior to the end of the short tour.

“Instead of moving a family from say, Shaw [Air Force Base] to Mom’s place in Boston for a year, and then to Tinker [AFB] and paying for two moves, the family can stay at Shaw [AFB] or go early to Tinker [AFB] while the Airman is away on the short tour,” said Bill Houston, AFPC Assignments Policy and Procedures branch.

However, moving the family to any other location other than the follow-on location at the expense of the Air Force invalidates the follow-on assignment. Airmen agree up-front not to use PCS allowances to relocate dependents and household goods temporarily to a place other than the follow-on location or to store household goods at government expense.

Houston said if participating in the Follow-On program would cause a financial or personal hardship, Airmen are encouraged to use their PCS allowances and not apply for the Follow-On program.

“The advantage of applying for a follow-on and thus not waiting for a ‘normal’ assignment is that the Airman’s next assignment would be forecast 14-18 months before their reporting date for their follow-on rather than much later in their short tour, which could increase flexibility or stability for the family,” Houston said.

Follow-on assignments are also available and highly encouraged for rated officers.

“As we face a fighter pilot absorption challenge, the Follow-On program encourages experienced pilots to volunteer for what has proven to be hard-to-fill short, remote tours,” said Maj. Craig Cude, Fighter Assignments chief at AFPC. “We project increases in retention and reductions in the number of pilots who decline such tours and are then required to separate from the Air Force.”

According to the fighter assignment team, the follow-on assignment option is available for all fighter pilots, with the exception of new pilots on their way to their first operational assignment, or pilots wishing to compete for crossflow to the F-35. AFPC will consider follow-ons to formal training units on a case-by-case basis due to formal training availability and qualification requirements.

“For new pilots, the losing commander’s input, based on the pilot’s performance and potential, is vital in determining where an inexperienced pilot goes after their first year in an operational assignment,” Cude said.

During each Vulnerable to Move List cycle, the fighter assignment team will provide a realistic outlook of locations available to select following the remote assignment. Cude says eligible pilots should base their follow-on preferences from that list.

“There must be a balance between flexibility for the assignment matching process and our Airmen’s family stability,” Cude said. “To help with pilot retention, we are adding more weight to the latter.”

In order to apply for follow-on consideration, Airmen need to submit their applications on the virtual Military Personnel Flight webpage within 15 days of receiving their assignment notification and more than 150 days prior to their departure date.

Cude encourages all Airmen to weigh the merits of the program in order to decide what works best for them and their families.

“We want to give Airmen a choice to take the follow-on, or not, but to at least understand their options and have a greater voice in their own assignment process,” he said.

Find additional information about follow-on assignments on myPers. Select “Any” from the drop-down menu and search “Follow-On.”

For more information about Air Force personnel programs, go to myPers.