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Some ARTs eligible for aviation bonus

Air Force Reserve Maj. Lucas Caulder, pilot, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, pilots a WC-130J Super Hercules though clouds illuminated by lighting as they heads into a low-level pass though Hurricane Irma Sep. 8, 2017.

Air Force Reserve Maj. Lucas Caulder, pilot, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, pilots a WC-130J Super Hercules though clouds illuminated by lighting as they heads into a low-level pass though Hurricane Irma Sep. 8, 2017. The Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron "Hurricane Hunters" fly WC-130J Super Hercules though the eye of active hurricanes to collect weather data using aircraft and externally dropped sensors to provide accurate weather data to the National Hurricane Center on approaching hurricanes. The Reserve Citizen Airmen provide 100 percent of the Air Force capability in low-level, real time data collection in Atlantic and Pacific Ocean tropical weather systems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Kyle Brasier)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Air Force Reserve Command is expanding its Aviation Bonus Program to qualifying Air Reserve Technicians as part of an effort to increase rated aircrew retention.

“For years, eligible AGR (Active Guard and Reserve) pilots received bonuses of up to $25,000 per year. However, far fewer ART pilots were qualifying for similar incentives until very recently,” said Col. Mike LoForti, commander of the Reserve’s 920th Rescue Wing Operations Group, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.

The request for ART retention incentives has increased dramatically recently, but the process is laborious, compared to applying for an AGR bonus, LoForti said. As a result, the command is looking at ways to streamline or simplify the process for commanders.

The former Aviation Bonus Program was only approved for AGR positions. Changes to the program expand the bonus opportunities to ARTs who meet specific requirements.

“The target audience, which is the rated ART community, has already shown strong interest in the program,” said Christopher Vorse, AFRC’s chief of rated aircrew management.

Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, AFRC commander and chief of the Air Force Reserve, said when it comes to the pilot shortage, the most challenging part isn’t attracting pilots, it’s keeping them.

She explained that AFRC, as a whole, is able to bring in a sufficient number of new pilots, but retaining them for the long term continues to be very problematic. This new incentive is in line with efforts to retain more pilots.

During the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense hearing in April, Miller further addressed the pilot shortage and its ramifications.

“In response to these challenges, we’ve implemented bonuses, incentive pay and special salary rates for our pilots and maintenance force,” she said. “Though this approach has positively impacted retention, it may not be sufficient for the long term. We need to continue to discuss other full-time support options and incentives with your staff and we need to garner support for these options to improve our full-time manning.”

The Aviation Bonus Program is designed to both bring more ARTs into the Reserve and to retain them.

“The AvB competes with the economy when (commercial airline) pilots are retiring,” said Vorse. “This is a way to get ahead and close that gap. Every day there are new applicants to the program.”

Eligible ARTs will receive a bonus of up to $18,000 while AGRs will now receive up to $35,000.

Interested pilots have until Dec. 31 to apply.

AGR or ART aviators must meet the following minimum requirements to be eligible for an AvB agreement:

• Must be qualified for operational flying duty in accordance with Air Force Instruction 11-401, Aviation Management, and AFI 11-402, Aviation and Parachutist Service, Aeronautical Ratings and Aviation Badges, and meet all other requirements for their particular aviation career specialty.
• Must be entitled to and receiving Aviation Incentive Pay at the time of agreement.
• Must be in the pay grade of O-5 or below at the time of the agreement effective date. Promotion to O-6 does not prohibit member from completing the agreement and receiving payments.
• Must have completed the initial Undergraduate Flying Training service commitment. Individuals who have joined the Reserve through the Palace Chase program must have 10 years active service (pilots) or six years active service (combat systems officer, air battle manager or remotely piloted aircraft pilot) since UFT graduation.
• Must have less than 24 years active service at the time of agreement effective date to be eligible for the minimum length agreement of one year.
• Must not be awaiting involuntary separation under AFI 36-3206, Administrative Discharge Procedures for Commissioned Officers.
• Must not have been dismissed or discharged for cause.
• Must not have retired or separated for any reason authorized under any provision of law or policy.
• Must not be awaiting an operational flying disqualification resulting from a Flying Evaluation Board or a medical disqualification.
• May not perform leave without pay in any type of civilian status away from their ART position. ARTs must not use more than 31 consecutive days and no more than 60 cumulative days of leave without pay in the bonus year and still receive the bonus.

The Air Force Reserve is committed to retaining experienced Reserve Citizen Airmen with skills in critical demand, like pilots, maintenance technicians, space operators, cyber specialists and more.

(Gosier is assigned to the public affairs office at Air Force Reserve Command headquarters, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.)