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Rule change lets more Airmen become officers

By Airman 1st Class Kevin Donaldson New York National Guard

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More enlisted Airmen now have a chance to become officers in the Air National Guard.

The regulation that set the maximum age for non-rated officers' commissioning opportunities at 39 years old has been replaced by a new requirement that allows Airmen to become officers if they can serve at least 10 years before hitting their mandatory retirement date.

Rated officers include pilots, navigators, air battle managers and remotely piloted aircraft pilots. Non-rated officers represent all other officer positions except for health care officers and chaplains.

Their commissioning requirements are different, according to New York Air National Guard Master Sgt. Matthew A. Repp, the recruiting and retention manager for the106th Rescue Wing at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach.

There are about 105,000 members of the Air Guard, both enlisted and officers, in the United States and its territories.

Officers represent about 17% of the 105,000 personnel, according to the 2016 Total Force Military Demographics.

The Air Guard has 7% and 6% fewer officers, respectively, than the Air Force Reserve and the active-duty Air Force, Repp said.

Officers comprise 24 percent of the Air Force Reserve and 23 percent of active-duty Airmen.

This difference means there can be opportunities for enlisted members to commission as officers in the Air Guard, Repp said.

According to the National Guard Bureau, the Air Guard represents 21% of the total Air Force and provides almost 50% of the Air Force's tactical airlift support, combat communications functions, aeromedical evacuations and aerial refueling.

The Air Guard generally attracts more experienced civilians, Airmen from active duty, and service members from other branches, said 2nd Lt. Patrick S. White, 106th logistics officer.

"To overcome the challenges of the future, the Air Guard needs enlisted members who are leaders to take their problem-solving abilities to the next level and serve as officers," White said.

Many enlisted members who commissioned performed their jobs with excellence when someone identified them as a qualified candidate for commissioning, White said.

While commissioning may not be right for everyone, there are several reasons why enlisted Airmen decided to commission.

"I wanted to effect change, invest in the development of my team so that they could effectively execute the mission," said 1st Lt. Julie C. Kurdi, 106th aircraft maintenance officer.

White said he commissioned based on the recommendation of people who observed his leadership potential.

"I wanted to inspire change for the team that I would lead," said 1st Lt. Damina E. Townes, an officer with the 106th Sustainment Services flight.

The officer selection process is quite rigorous, Repp said.

Applicants must have a bachelor's degree, obtain security clearance and meet physical fitness standards. Then there is the Air Force officer qualifying test.

"I studied four days a week, an hour each day, for five months and hired a tutor as needed to prepare for the officer qualifying test," White said. "Generally, this test can only be taken twice. Therefore, candidates need to take their time and do the work necessary to pass."

Next is an interview with the selection board.

Once NGB gives final approval, candidates attend officer training for eight weeks at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

Newly commissioned officers must attend a technical school to learn their job and then complete on-the-job training.

The Air Guard will need new officers who can lead the organization to mission success, said Major Edward S. Boughal, 106th director of staff and a combat rescue officer.

"Effective officers will be able to lead people with humility, make good decisions quickly, and speak truth to power," Boughal said.