Commentary: Chief offers assignment advice for enlisted airmen

By Chief Master Sgt. Brian Wanke: Air Force Personnel Center

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — For the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of serving as a functional manager for enlisted communications assignments.

When I first arrived, I questioned our assignment policies all the time. However, as I became aware of the reasons each rule was developed and the consequences of not following them, I quickly came to appreciate them.

Our current assignments system may not be perfect, but it is truly based on fairness and equity.

Educating yourself is key. Think about any game you’ve ever played — there are usually two types of players: those who read the instructions to familiarize themselves with the rules of the game and those who frantically try to learn the rules when things don’t go their way. Educate yourself on the rules of our assignment system ahead of time.

As my tour here ends, I’d like to share some friendly advice to all enlisted airmen:

• Keep your records up-to-date. Your assignment NCO is responsible for 4,000 to 10,000 airmen, so they don’t have time to research whether your short-tour return date is correct or not. Just like promotion records, you are responsible for ensuring your information is up to date.

• Make sure your assignment preferences reflect your current desires. Your preference statement is like a will — it doesn’t matter how often or how long ago it was changed, the last update is what counts. It’s hard to complain when you get what you asked for.

• As long as you’re on active duty, you need to be prepared to move and to deal with all that comes with a permanent change of station. For example, carefully consider all possibilities before buying a house because doing so will not prevent you from moving, and mortgages don’t come with a military clause.

• Keep your long-range goals flexible. Don’t plan on retiring from your current base until you’re actually retirement-eligible. Air Force needs may dictate another PCS.

• Exceptions to policy are just that — exceptions. If you have an active-duty service commitment, expect to fulfill it unless a waiver could benefit the Air Force.

• Don’t delay the process — it’s not all about you. If you don’t earn retainability in time, if you decide to “seven-day opt” on day 12, or if you wait too long to start your clearance paperwork, it affects more than just you. The gaining unit and the next airman in line are the ones who suffer.

• Be proactive and volunteer. Buying 100 tickets won’t guarantee you’ll win the lottery, but you sure won’t win if you don’t buy any. It’s better to search for an assignment you want than to have an assignment searching for you.

Always remember, our profession is the defense of the U.S. At the end of the day, Air Force needs dictate where we go. Stay positive, and make the most of each assignment — your experience is only as good as you make it.