The U.S. Armed Forces is made up of 6 different branches: Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, and Space Force. Within the 6 branches are 3 separate components: active duty, national guard, and reserves. Given that we have not been in a major war since WWII, the military we have today is completely voluntary. Those who want to serve, and are capable of meeting the standards of each respective branch can enlist voluntarily. In discussing force quality in class, the main way that the military determines its quality is through a combination of recruiting and retention. In this particular blog post, I examined the force quality of the Air Force.
In October of 2021, the end of FY (Fiscal Year) 21, all three components achieved both their recruiting and retention goals according to Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, commander of the Air Force Recruiting Service. This was most likely due to the Covid 19 Pandemic that made many Airman stay in over fear of getting out and not finding a job or having a job they could potentially lose. In addition to the Pandemic, the Air Force has shifted their recruiting methods to one of "total force recruiting" which is a concept that allows recruiters from all 3 components to work together to achieve mission needs. This new strategy is allowing Air Force recruiters to match up recruit with the right service for them rather than trying to persuade them to go to one or the other simply for mission numbers.
This way of recruiting in addition to the Air Force's pre existing quality of life for their airman shined during the Pandemic which resulted in record breaking numbers in retention. Airmen from all components were still being deployed both CONUS (nationally) and OCONUS (internationally), new recruits were coming in, and airmen remained in service even during a Pandemic. Active Duty Air Force added 26,641 enlisted airmen and 658 officers. The Air Reserves added 7,300 enlisted and 1,500 officers. The Air Guard added 7,869 enlisted airmen and 755 officers.
While the Air Force retention has spiked recently, their incentives have dropped. Due to the high volume of retention, the Air Force is going to start cutting many of their incentives such as bonuses. Many career fields that originally required high incentives such as a bonus are looking to get cut because those slots are now full and staying full. Not only did the Air Force meet its goal but they surpassed their retention goals, which is leaving many slots over staffed. Overstaffing can make it difficult for airmen to move up in ranks and progress in their respective career field. The Air Force is known as being one of the more selective branches, but it looks like they may be even more selective and cut back on their recruiting in the coming years.