Enlisted Force Structure Review: Command initiative focused on finding most effective, efficient mix of NCOs

Citizen Airman/Oct. 2017 -- Officials from across Air Force Reserve Command are working hard on a new effort to make sure the command’s enlisted force structure is designed to meet the needs of AFRC and the Air Force, both now and in the future.

In January 2016, now-retired Lt. Gen. James Jackson, AFRC commander at the time, directed a continuous process improvement event to examine the enlisted force structure and determine if it was meeting organizational needs.

“This was the first time in nearly 20 years that AFRC conducted a corporate-level review of how decisions were made in the process of structuring the enlisted force,” said Brett Clark, a policy analyst at Headquarters AFRC who is working on the new enlisted force structure project.

During this corporate-level review, officials discovered that, over time, a great disparity had developed between the unit type code-driven, requirements-based grades distribution of all enlisted positions and the authorization-based grades distribution of all enlisted funded positions. AFRC hires enlisted members based on the number of authorized positions.

“Comparing these two distributions, we learned that in every rank category except staff sergeants and below, there were more stripes distributed to authorized positions than the Air Force actually required to complete the mission,” said Lt. Col. Dave Ubelhor, another policy analyst assigned to the enlisted force structure project. “The question then became, ‘How can AFRC improve the distribution process of authorized rank/grade positions and more strategically structure and manage its indispensable enlisted force?’”

“We needed a flexible and transparent process that would preserve, build and shape the Air Force Reserve, maximize force development, and provide career progression and leadership opportunities commensurate with various levels of responsibility for each enlisted rank and grade,” said Jeffrey Pennington, AFRC director of staff. “We also needed a standard, well-understood and consistent method to process requested exceptions to policy (requests to distribute positions differently within an Air Force specialty or directorate).”

After the corporate-level review, AFRC decided to implement a fundamentally new approach to structure the enlisted force — one that focuses on how to better distribute the funded enlisted positions across the command by rank/grade and within each career field.

At the heart of this new approach is a new Enlisted Grades Council, which requires AFRC enlisted leaders to be actively and intricately involved in how decisions are made for the people they represent.

“For the first time in AFRC’s history, the chief enlisted managers are empowered to strategically and deliberately structure, distribute and manage the enlisted force across the various rank and grade categories,” said Chief Master Sgt. Ericka Kelly, AFRC’s command chief master sergeant and the chair of the Enlisted Grades Council.

Under the new enlisted force structure construct, chief enlisted managers will collaborate with multiple subject-matter experts — career field managers, major command functional managers, functional area managers and numbered Air Force command chiefs — to examine the requirements-based grades distribution for each Air Force specialty. They then propose an authorization-based grades distribution for all the positions in that career field. They will repeat this process for every Air Force specialty within their directorate’s portfolio.

The proposed distributions for each Air Force specialty are reviewed and finalized by the Enlisted Grades Council and submitted to the AFRC commander and other senior leaders for approval.

Plans call for the new Enlisted Grades Council to convene approximately every two years to review the command’s enlisted grades structure and recommend redistribution if necessary. The council’s first meeting is set for 2018. Details of how the council will be implemented are still being finalized.

“I’m excited about the work our enlisted force structure working group has generated over the last year and a half, and I’m looking forward to seeing the work our new Enlisted Grades Council will produce to make sure we have the right mix of enlisted forces in place to meet our requirements in the years to come,” said Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, AFRC commander.