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AFPC expertise raises manning for 31 critical skills career fields

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Thirty-one critical skills career fields received a boost in manning recently when 1,888 volunteers were accepted for retraining. This number included 315 exception-to-policy Airmen who were contacted for the first time and approved by personnel experts at the Air Force Personnel Center here.

Overall, the retraining program filled all seats for 96 percent of the career fields such as pararescue, in-flight refueling, aerial gunner and combat control.

AFPC plans to continue to review exceptions-to-policy each year as needed, according to Chief Master Sgt. Christine Williams, enlisted skills management branch chief. Exception-to-policy Airmen included those: who wanted to retrain but were a different rank than the one targeted for retraining; not selected for the AFSC they wanted to retrain into; first-term Airmen without career job reservations who wanted to remain in the service but could not remain in their current AFSC; and others.

"We do our best to maintain and improve the health of career field manning by matching volunteers to the unique training needs while helping Airmen achieve their career goals," she said. "We envision continued success with retraining by not only relying upon volunteers, but also being able to reconsider the exceptions-to-policy."

Chief Master Sgt. Ralph Humphrey, Air Education and Training Command's functional area manager for combat control, experienced first-hand what the retraining specialists did to help his search for new combat control candidates.

"When I first took this position about four years ago, the highest number of retrainee graduates was 17 Airmen," he said. "Working with the career field manager and other command functionals, we set out to recruit more Airmen and were successful to a point; however, when I brought this to the attention of Chief Williams, that's when our efforts really took off."

Chief Humphrey said he expects the career field will graduate 25-30 Airmen in 2009 based on the record number of retrainees (53) entering the program in 2008.

Explosive ordnance disposal is another career field that benefited from the AFPC retraining team. Chief Williams said the team went the extra mile to secure 55 volunteers for upcoming schools. They did this by calling previous volunteers to see if they were still interested in retraining due to the increase in quotas. Team members also reviewed the list of disqualified Airmen to see if anyone met the new criteria and then contacted them as well.

Chief Master Sgt. Robert Hodges, Air Force explosive ordnance disposal career field manager, said the 55 Airmen who volunteered to retrain into EOD are vital to maintaining a healthy career field ready to win the war on terrorism. He praised the efforts of Staff Sgt. Sara Digennaro, of the AFPC retraining office, who personally called Airmen to tell them of the additional retraining option.

"Without her actions and attention to detail, the Air Force would not have met its EOD retraining goals," said Chief Hodges. "It is that simple, she made it happen."

Sergeant Digennaro said it gave her a lot of satisfaction to match up Airmen with available retraining into jobs many have waited to get into.

"It is an awesome feeling to know I helped make a difference for the Air Force by giving these Airmen another opportunity to serve their country," she said. "My co-worker and I spent a lot of extra hours finding these volunteers, and this outcome made it more than worth the effort."

Airmen seeking to broaden their Air Force careers can find more information on retraining available 24/7 on the AFPC "Ask" Web site by selecting the Active Duty Enlisted link under AFPC Navigation, then select See All under the Retraining heading. Airmen can also call the Air Force Contact Center at (800) 616-3775.