The post I did about the 13S/1C6X1 career field along with the link included to the reddit post by SilentD provides some great information about the overview of our career field. The purpose of this post is to further explain some of the more in depth processes, vision, and intent regarding our assignments.
Breadth vs. Depth
As of the writing of this post, AFSPC leadership’s intent for a 13S’s career is to have two Operational Tours or ‘Ops Tours’ under our belt before we move on to do bigger and better things. This discussion is often closely related to the breadth vs. depth discussion, which in short is whether or not it is better to have breadth of experience (i.e., one tour at every different type of space assignment) or depth of experience (i.e., extensive experience in one or maybe two assignments within similar fields.) In other words is it better to have experience in all shreds of space (spacelift, satellite command and control, or Missile Warning) or extensive experience in just Missile Warning? Personally, I think two assignments is the sweet spot of ideal experience so I agree with AFSPC’s current direction on this. The two ops tour policy is not a hard requirement, it is more of a general goal AFPC uses as they walk us through our career paths. For example as a brand new 2d Lt I will almost certainly do two ops tours, but a Capt who cross-flowed into 13S from 62XX will probably only do one because he or she is 4-5 years further down their career.
AFPC Assignment Availability Code
In order for AFPC to maintain control of our tours and tour length, they use Assignment Availability Codes IAW AFI 36-2110. The below memorandum signed January 15, 2015 dictates that with a few exceptions 13S tour length is 36 or 48 months depending on the unit. The time doesn’t start until you are combat mission ready/mission ready (CMR/MR) so it can be up to one year until your time on station actually starts. For example here is how my timeline played out. I was extremely fortunate so consider my case the best-case scenario:
- Graduated OTS
- +2 months – casual status
- +3 months – Undergraduate Space Training (UST) at Vandenberg AFB, CA
- +2 months – casual status
- +3 months – Mission Qualification Training (MQT) at my first base
- TOTAL: 10 months after graduating OTS, finally on console doing the job
I was in training for 10 months so my 36/48 month tour didn’t start until 10 months (CMR date) after I graduated OTS. Some of my peers were in training for even up to 18 months so that was a significant part of their career spent in limbo. I consider 18 months the worst-case scenario.
AFPC controls these tours by Assignment Availability Codes which are outlined in AFI 36-2110. AAC codes may sound familiar because if you were active duty when you applied for OTS you had to have an AAC 05. Here is the definition for AAC 55:
AAC 55: CONUS Minimum Stabilized Tour, Applies to Officers, Tours controlled by HQ USAF and HQ AFPC, Deferment Period or Effective Date: Date assigned plus number of years authorized. (In our case, the number of years authorized is either 36 or 48 months.)
The memo also mentions Code 56, but this doesn’t make sense to me because the AFI states it applies to enlisted. Regardless, the process and basic premise should be the same.
Stabilized Tour Guide
The AFI also references something called the Stabilized Tour Guide, but the link they provide does not work. This guide can be found on MyPers by searching “Stabilized Tour Guide.” While it doesn’t specifically spell out the details for 13S’s, it does provide some additional information regarding the differences between minimum and maximum stabilized tours. It is worth a glance but not crucial.
To re-iterate, yes, this does indeed mean that you could be at your first base 4-5 years. If you are only planning to do four years then punch, knowing this could be a critical point in your decision-making process. Additionally, this can be HUGE if you are a 63XX officer doing an OPEX tour in a 13S billet. I should mention that there are indeed short tours out there which are 12-18 months so this can significantly change your timeline.