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Things to Consider When Deciding Whether to Join The Air Force

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The Air Force has over 150 enlisted jobs. Only three of these jobs ( Pararescue, Combat Controller, and Tactical Air Command and Control ), are closed to women. The Air Force calls their enlisted jobs "Air Force Specialty Codes," or "AFSCs."

The Air Force has two enlistment options: Guaranteed Job, and Guaranteed Aptitude Area. Under the "Guaranteed Job" program, the applicant is guaranteed training in a specific AFSC (Air Force Job). Under the Guaranteed Aptitude program, the applicant is guaranteed that he/she will be selected for a job that falls into one of the designated aptitude areas. The Air Force has divided all of their jobs into four aptitude areas ( General, Electronic, Mechanical, and Administrative ).

To provide maximum flexibility for the Air Force to meet their needs, only about 40 percent of all job slots are made available to the Air Force Recruiting Command for guaranteed jobs. The remaining 60 percent are reserved for those enlisting under the Guaranteed Aptitude Area program. The way the process generally works is that applicants travel to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), where they take the ASVAB, undergo a medical examination, and meet with a security clearance specialist, to determine their qualifications. Then the applicant meets with an Air Force Job Counselor, and looks over the jobs that are currently available at that time, that they qualify for (if any). If there are no jobs available that the applicant qualifies for, and/or wants, they make out a list of five or so jobs (including one aptitude area ), and are enlisted in the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP). Applicants are then placed on the QWL (Qualified Waiting List), for one of their preferences to become available. This can take several months. It's not uncommon, these days, for an Air Force applicant to remain in the DEP for eight or more months before finally shipping out to basic training. When one of their preferences becomes available (whether it be a specific job or an aptitude area), they are then assigned to that job/aptitude area, and are given their basic training shipping date.

If one enlists in the Guaranteed Aptitude Program, they will meet with a job counselor around the 2nd week of basic training. The job counselor will give them a list of all the AVAILABLE jobs that they qualify for (medical, moral history, ASVAB scores). Understand that not all Air Force jobs within the aptitude area will be on the list. Only the jobs that have open school seats at that particular point in time. When you receive the list of choices, you have one week to consider it, then you return to the job counselor and give your top 8 choices (from the list). Everyone else in the same week of training, who enlisted in the same aptitude program will also have a list that looks exactly like yours. They will be making choices, as well. The job counselors give each applicant a "rating," which is derived from their ASVAB scores, medical qualifications, and moral (criminal/drug history) qualifications. If, for example, there is a job that has five openings and six people put it down as there first choice, they take the five highest rated and give them the slots and the sixth person, they go to their second choice (of course, that "second choice" may also be someone else's first choice, which would affect whether or not the person would get the slot, depending on how many are available, and how many placed it high on their list).

Individuals who enlist in the Guaranteed Aptitude Program generally find out which job they've been selected for, around the 7th or 8th week of basic training.

Those wishing to enlist in the Air Force must be very flexible when it comes to job assignment. For the past several years (and currently), the Air Force has done exceptionally well in recruiting. In fact, the Air Force has thousands of more volunteers than they have enlistment slots for.

Air Force recruiters will often refuse to process an applicant who is "job locked." In effect, it's a waste of time and resources to process an applicant who is determined to be interested in only a couple of job possibilities, when there are hundreds of other qualified applicants, waiting in line behind him/her, who are willing to be more flexible. Some Air Force recruiting squadrons have established a briefing checklist that recruiters must go over with the applicant and have them initial and sign before they go to MEPS that specifically states that they are going to the MEPS in order to swear into to the Air Force DEP, and NOT TO JOB SHOP. If the applicant doesn't agree to this and doesn't sign this briefing checklist then they don't go to MEPS. Plain and simple. In order to join the Air Force, one must be flexible with both job selections and dates of availability.

The Air Force will -- at times -- work someone outside of the job they were trained in. This usually happens when someone does something that results in temporary disqualification from their normal job, or if someone volunteers for a special job or project. For example, in some squadrons, there may be a "team" of three or four volunteers to form the squadron "small computer team." These individuals would be volunteers from within the squadron, to install and maintain small computers or the small computer network within the squadron. Many of the larger Air Force squadrons have such volunteer teams.

Want to read more about the pros and cons of choosing the Air Force?

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