The post I did about the 13S/1C6X1 career field Click Here 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
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.
As an officer it is extremely valuable to have the information you need or know how to find it. There is an outstanding resource available to officers in almost any career field in the Air Force Portal. If you search “Assignment Team” you will likely find a page with information specific to your career field.
Here is the Air Force Portal link to the 13S Space Operations Assignment Team page. On this page you will find information regarding Professional Military Education (IDE/SDE), contact information, DO/CC board results, career milestone charts, etc. It basically contains links or information to anything which may be relevant to managing your career.
Officers are expected to manage their own career, not follow the path the Air Force set out for them. Instead of getting the next assignment by luck or AFSC slots available, you will tell AFPC where you want to go and decide for yourself what is good for your career. Ideally you will have mentors who can help you along with this process but in my opinion it is best if you can figure out 90%-95% of it out yourself, and seek mentorship for the last little bit. If you do this it is harder to be left behind by the dynamic and competitive nature of officer careers.
Here is the link:
Although newly commissioned second lieutenants don’t need to worry about the assignment process for the first few years, it has always been my method to understand the next step of every process. This has been extremely helpful to me while enlisted, but from what I understand of the commissioned side it is crucial. One of my mentors told me that opportunities in the officer corps may come and go without your knowledge if you are aren’t paying attention, and I believe playing your part in your second assignment is one of these opportunities. I have heard more than once that the first 4-6 years of an officer’s career lays the foundation and establishes the overall direction of the career.
On the enlisted side there are sometimes ‘blocks’ you have to check in order to promote to the next grade. One example is the requirement of having a CCAF degree to promote to SMSgt. On the officer side there are not only blocks, but you compete for different opportunities within each block. For example, officers compete for the most prestigious DO or commander positions which may play into how quickly they promote to the appropriate grade. The competition aspect still plays a role in officer PME, but I will expand on this in later posts.
The 13S career field is much different than other career fields in many ways, but I believe the general assignment process is the same for all AFSCs. As of now new 13S officers are generally expected to do two “ops tours” which means you will be an operator at two different assignments. At each assignment you may have the opportunity to work as an evaluator or instructor after you are an operator, but you will generally learn a new “weapon system” at your next assignment as an operator. I have my own opinion on what types of ops tours are most beneficial for my situation but I will save that for another post as well. This is related to the “depth vs. breadth” discussion you may hear about in the 13S career field.
|Image Source: http://www.jber.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-110413-056.pdf|
In reference to the table above, there are three general cycles every officer falls into for assignments. If your first RNLTD is in May you will be on the spring cycle (look at the RNLTD months category on the right). Once you know your cycle you can walk the process all the way to the left to see when you have to start thinking about your next assignment. I will walk through and describe the entire process as I understand it from left to right.
I will use the spring cycle in my example. On 19 July an initial Vulnerable Mover List (VML) will be released identifying all individuals who may be due to PCS in the spring cycle. This is a list released by AFPC of the majority of officers who are due to PCS. Once this list is released, commander’s have the opportunity of adding or removing officers from this list during the “Field Reclama VML.” If your commander is going to alter the list for an officer, there has to be a valid reason. An example of this would be if he wants to keep you another year so you can be a Flight Commander. Due to the somewhat short period of this window this is a conversation I recommend you have with your commander well in advance of actually entering the window.
Once the reclama window closes AFPC will release a final VML. This is the final list of all officers who are vulnerable to move, and from what I understand it doesn’t change. Imagine if you were to pop up on this list and you didn’t know it, and your commander didn’t catch it. You would have missed your opportunity to fight it!
The next step in the process is the Personnel Requirements Display (PRD) Visibility Window. The PRD is the list of all assignments available, and it is separated by grade and AFSC. This is essentially the list of where the officers on the VML can PCS to. It would be in your best interest to only apply to slots on this list, which leads me to the Airman Development Plan (ADP).
The ADP is how you tell AFPC what your assignment preference is for the cycle. This is the first and main input you have on the assignment process. This is someone similar to the enlisted dream sheet, but I don’t want to use that terminology because it is still much different. The main difference is how your preferences are prioritized as an officer, which I will talk about in later paragraphs. Your ADP is due in the system NLT than the ADP due date.
The ‘AFPC matches assignments’ window is the two month period where the assignment team for your AFSC actually matches your assignment. The 13S assignment team told me they use the entire window because there is always tweaking and fine tuning involved with the process. At some point after this window, assignments will be pushed through the vMPF system. We were told once you get your assignment there is little that can be done because your chance at input was your ADP. The assignment team cannot talk to you about your assignment until you accept it. Once you accept it again there is little they can do, but they can provide insight into why it was selected for you.
This is the part which surprises me about the officer assignment process. While enlisted I would estimate your input at around 10%. Once the assignment list comes out for that cycle you rush to update your dream sheet, but it is strictly a numbers game. The computer matches the available slots to those who volunteered, and if you high enough on the list (among a number of factors), you may get an assignment you didn’t despise. On the officer side there is much more emphasis on placing you in an assignment which is good for your career. The proportional amount of input you have (I would quantify this at 40%) tells a lot about how important each assignment is to your career. Each officer assignment is hand selected by the assignment team. The paraphrased priorities from my notes are as follows. I am sure this is in the AFI but I am too lazy to look it up right now.
- Air Force Mission Needs
- Officer Professional Development
- Career Field Functional Priorities
- Individual Priorities.