Air Force officials reduce Palace Chase obligation
By Daniel Elkins, Air Force News Service
/ Published April 14, 2010
RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Air Force officials here recently reduced the Reserve commitment for officers and enlisted members participating in Palace Chase temperarily as part of Air Force management measures to balance the force while meeting a congressionally mandated end strength.
The three-to-one officer and two-for-one enlisted Reserve obligation for each remaining year of active-duty service commitment have been reduced to a one-for-one commitment.
The expanded fiscal 2010 Palace Chase Program provides Airmen in select Air Force specialties an additional waiver for active duty service commitment to transfer from active military service to the Air Reserve component.
Eligible Airmen may apply for the expanded waiver through June 30 and must separate from active duty by Sept. 1. The obligation reduction does not apply to members separating under regular Palace Chase guidelines.
"Palace Chase allows the total force to retain critical skills and training invested in the development of Airmen and provides them a means to continue serving," said Senior Master Sgt. Cindy Clendenen, the Palace Chase Program superintendent at the Air Force Personnel Center here. "The decreased mobility also allows Airmen to maintain stability for their families."
Senior Master Sgt. Sean Strong, the Western Sector superintendent for Air National Guard in-service recruiting, said family and education top the list of reasons why people choose Palace Chase.
"Many active-duty members want to pursue a college degree full time, which can be tough to do given the active-duty operations tempo, shift work and permanent changes of station," Sergeant Strong said. "Just as many are looking to separate so they can be near loved ones again, settle down or start a new career."
Other advantages include having control over where one chooses to live, and the flexibility of serving just two days a month and 15 days of annual training per year, he said.
Keeping that sense of military camaraderie with a new level of freedom and independence along with retaining access to most of the military benefits they enjoy now are also key factors why Airmen choose to continue their service in the Reserve or Guard, Sergeant Strong said.
Air Force leaders in November initially expanded Palace Chase transfers by waiving active-duty service commitments to allow officers to voluntarily fulfill their commitment through the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard as a force management measure to help meet a fiscal 2010 end strength of 331,700. However, an insufficient response to the program led Air Force officials to retool the transfer obligation period as part of their expanded measures announced March 25 and appeal to a wider number of Airmen, including enlisted.
One Airman taking advantage of the opportunity to separate from active duty early is Capt. Nicole Hagerman, the aircraft maintenance unit officer in charge for the 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Among her considerations, what appealed most to the five-year veteran was a chance to be closer to home while still serving in the Air Force at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind.
"It all really depends on what the individual is looking for," Captain Hagerman said. "I am looking to get closer to my family and start a family of my own. It is sad leaving active duty, but exciting about starting a new life."
Sergeant Clendenen said she recommends the first step members should take if interested in Palace Chase is to contact an in-service recruiter for additional information on the program. Reserve in-service recruiters are located at every military personnel section, and the Air National Guard has in-service recruiters at 24 bases. To find the nearest Guard in-service recruiter, call (800) TO-GO-ANG or visit www.goang.com.
1st Lt. Danielle Hummert of Malmstrom AFB, Mont., also recommended talking with someone who went through the process and remaining patient.
"Each step in the process takes time. It can be a little overwhelming trying to navigate each step and ensuring the application is received by AFPC with all of the requirements," she said. "Bottom line, talk to the in-service recruiter frequently, read all of the application instructions, and be proactive. You are the only person that is most concerned about your future."
As a military personnel section program manager for the 341st Mission Support Group, Lieutenant Hummert had conducted a few re-enlistment ceremonies for the Reserve in-service recruiter at Malmstrom AFB before asking him to explain Palace Chase in greater detail.
"The thing that appealed to me the most about this program was the fact that I could still serve in the Air Force part time while being able to pursue a second career or go back to school," she said.
She admited that leaving active duty was the most difficult part of her decision, but lists family as foremost among reasons for joining the Reserve. Other considerations she cited in her decision included job security in an intimidating civilian job market, financial concerns and the challenges of her husband also serving on active duty.
"Deciding to serve was one of the best decisions I have made," Lieutenant Hummert said. "It is difficult to think about life without the Air Force being a huge part of it." Lieutenant Hummert separates in June after three years of service and will be assigned to the 940th Reserve Wing at Beale AFB, Calif. "However, the Air Force instilled in me many marketable leadership and management skills that I'm sure will pay off."
Separations officials at AFPC said they will approve applications based on Air Force specialty manning in order to preserve minimum sustainment levels. Consideration of the expanded waiver for those previously approved for Palace Chase under force management will be made on a case-by-case basis considering the best interest of the Air Force.
Eligible Airmen may submit Palace Chase applications using the online application located on the Virtual Military Personnel Flight. To learn more about eligibility criteria for Palace Chase and any possible restrictions under force management, visit the AFPC personnel services Web site or call the Total Force Service Center at (800) 525-0102.