Air Force offers thousands more in new enlistment bonuses

Qualified special warfare operators could get $50,000

If you qualify for an Air Force special warfare job and could use $50,000, the Air Force would like a word with you. Soon.

The Air Force added more jobs eligible for enlistment bonuses in fiscal year 2022, the Air Force announced Wednesday.

Air Force special warfare recruits are eligible for up to $50,000 upon entering active duty, the service said. And some cyber career fields are attached to bonuses up to $20,000, based on the applicant’s certification levels in those fields.

Seven maintenance-related skills, with four or six-year contracts, were also added to the FY22 Initial Enlistment Bonus program this week.

Qualified recruits have to act quickly, though. The service said bonuses will be offered through Sept. 30.

This move brings the total number of Air Force “specialty bonuses” to 22.

“Our Air Force value proposition is about far more than pay or compensation,” Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, Air Force Recruiting Service commander, said in a release. “It’s primarily about opportunity and joining a community with an unmatched sense of purpose. But in a highly competitive labor market, enlistment incentives can help ensure we get the additional Airmen required to fill our ranks and serve the nation.”

He added: “Today, that job market is at record-high levels of competition and it’s a battle for talent.”

The Air Force’s $8,000 “quick-ship bonus” that began in April remains in place. “Quick ship” happens when a qualified applicant fills a basic training vacancy, and ships within five days or less.

The Air Force said about 180 bonuses have been paid to recruits who entered active duty within a few days of signing a contract.

In an interview last month, Thomas told the Dayton Daily News that he sees an “increasing disconnect” with civil society tied to decreasing exposure to the American military today, with fewer veterans, fewer military bases across the country and generally less civilian access to those bases, especially after 9/11.

Early this year, Thomas warned that recruitment numbers are trending downwards. “The aggregate effect of these two years of COVID is driving downward trends in our pool of qualified applicants,” the Federal News Network quoted him as saying.

A Heritage Foundation report earlier this year said that the number of Americans qualified to join the military without a waiver continues to fall. Since 2014, the military has reported that because of obesity, criminal history, physical problems, drug use or lack of a high school degree, only 29% of Americans qualify to join the military without a waiver, the foundation said.

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