The Next Generation of Air Guardsmen

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- When I look at the Air National Guard today, compared to years past, many of today's airmen look at joining the ANG, get their college paid for, meet their original commitment and move on vs. looking at their enlistment as a part time career and investment. Today, the ANG has a huge retention gap in the middle enlisted force structure (Senior Airman to Tech. Sgt.) and it is a growing concern. The US military has invested millions of dollars in training ANG personnel in specific, and possibly several, skillsets. Our enlisted force is the backbone of the ANG. When personnel in the upper enlisted rank structure (Tech. Sgt. to Chief Master Sgt.) retire, we have a potential strategic gap where there is limited availability of personnel to fill those specific needs and experience levels.   

What can we do to help resolve this retention issue? What can we do to entice our members to make a career of the ANG like those of us that have served for over 20 years?

We need to advertise the perks/benefits to ANG personnel as to what long-term payback they can expect to receive for their commitment in this great organization. In a time where defined retirements (company pays you a retirement after X number of years of service and/or age) are at the lowest level ever, and headed towards non-existence in the fortune 500 companies, ANG members need to understand that they have an opportunity for a huge investment at their disposal for their financial future.  For example, under today's military retirement system, let's say you enlist today, do your minimum participation (78 points per year X 20 years for a total of 1560 Points); you are a MSgt and retire at age 38. Your retirement is vested and when you get to age 60, you start drawing approximately $873/ month ($10,476/year) for the rest of your life.  (Example, you live to age 80 that is $209, 520 for those 20 years plus Medical Tri-care benefits.)  In some states where you retire this is not even taxed, see link http://www.military.com/benefits/military-pay/state-retirement-income-tax.html .

Currently, we live in a world where most companies want you to invest in a 401K plan or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) that has Wall Street mutual funds with a limited percent matching, no guarantee of percent returns, or no guarantee the stock market will not crash. When a person remains in ANG they are in much better position. Doesn't it make sense to continue to invest time, skill enhancement, benefits, potential leadership growth, and a guaranteed retirement? The other benefits that are packaged with staying and retiring in the guard are also sometimes overlooked and under-advertised.

On-base benefits on any major military base:
1. Space A Travel on Military aircraft for ANG member & overseas with family after 20 years of service.
2. ITT travel office discounts
      a. Major theme parks (i.e. Disney Pass for 4 days for $194 vs. $134/day)
      b. Shows/Concerts, etc.
3. Commissary and Exchange privileges
4. Club, Golf Course, Child Care, Youth Centers, Pool and Gym

Off-Base benefits:
1. Discounted movie theater tickets
2. Military discounts at a great many retailers

Other Benefits
1. Ability to transfer to ANG units in other states if your civilian job location changes
2. Opportunity to build your reputation in ANG for more responsibility & promotion nationwide
3. Networking to find a new or better civilian job.
Introductions to persons having a civilian skill that you need;
       a. In an employee for your company
       b. To fix/repair/reprogram some item you own
4. USAA Insurance

These benefits may seem small when you're 18 years old, but as time goes by you see the benefits of military growth in a second part-time career. The camaraderie, deployments to interesting places, support to & for your fellow service members, retirement pay, medical, and other perks you get to keep for the rest of your life. Only you can make that choice, like many of us have done before you. I am a third generation military member and my family has passed down the ideology, responsibility, satisfaction and benefits of serving this great country and what it can potentially give back to you. I hope you take that step in ANG and make it a career too!

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