US Air Force Offering Up to $50,000 in Bonuses to Combat Low Enlistment

Photo Credit: Simon Dawson / Bloomberg / Getty Images

The US Air Force has announced the introduction of bonuses – some up to $50,000 – for recruits looking to join its ranks. It’s just the latest branch of the US military to offer such monetary incentives as a way to combat decreasing enlistment numbers.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Airmen training
US Airmen, assigned to the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) flight, place C-4 during training on the pro range at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: Senior Airman Cody Sanders / 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs / DVIDS / Public Domain)

Word of the shortfall came in January 2022, when Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, Air Force Recruiting Service Commander, wrote a now-leaked letter detailing how the coronavirus pandemic had caused a number of issues within the service, including decreased enlistment and revenue.

“Not two years into the pandemic and we have warning lights flashing,” he wrote. “If we were a company, we would still be in the black, we would still be making a profit, but our profit margins and our available capital, those numbers are trending down right now.”

Maintenance crew working on a B-52 Stratofortress
Tech. Sgt. Craig Drum and Tech. Sgt. Ryan Hoffmann, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chiefs, repair the wing flap of a B-52H Stratofortress in support of a Bomber Task Force deployment at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Alysia Blake / Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs / DVIDS / Public Domain)

To combat this, the Air Force is offering new enlistee bonuses in 16 different career fields. This includes $8,000 for “Quick Ship” recruits who fill out a short-notice basic training vacancy between April 11 and September 30, 2022. This requires that they be fully qualified and are prepared to ship out “within five days or less.”

The new bonuses are available for four- and six-year contracts, and cover a variety of fields within the service. Cyber jobs offer a range of between $12,000 and $20,000 in bonus pay for a four-year contract, depending on the certification, while survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists are eligible for a $40,000 bonus.

Two of the Air Force’s most dangerous positions – special warfare operators and bomb technicians – are eligible for the largest payout at $50,000.

Special Forces Airmen pulling a rope
US Air Force pararescuemen, assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron Blue Team, set up a rope system to cross a waterway in the jungle of Wahiawa, Hawaii. Rope crossing ensures special warfare Airmen are able to get to their destination effectively and efficiently. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer / 23rd Wing Public Affairs / DVIDS / Public Domain)

Speaking via a press release, Thomas said, “As we roll up our sleeves in the battle for talent, we’ve got to remain competitive as we go after our next generation of Airmen. While we’ve got an unmatched value proposition, we also have a record-high level of competition for America’s best and brightest.”

The total list of eligible positions and their bonuses are:

  • Aerospace Ground Equipment – 4-year bonus of $3,000, 6-year bonus of $6,000
  • Any AFSC – 4- and 6-year bonuses of $8,000
  • Airborne Linguist – 6-year bonus of $20,000
  • Client Systems – 6-year bonus of between $12,000 and $20,000
  • Crypto Linguist – 6-year bonus of $18,000
  • Cyber Surety – 6-year bonus of between $12,000 and $20,000
  • Cyber Systems Operations – 6-year bonus of between $12,000 and $20,000
  • Cyber Transport Systems – 6-year bonus of between $12,000 and $20,000
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) – 6-year contract of $50,000
  • Any mechanical or electrical aptitude area – 4-year contract of $3,000, 6-year contract of $6,000
  • Munitions Systems – 4-year bonus of $3,000, 6-year bonus of $6,000
  • Radio Frequency Transmission Systems – 4-year bonus of $3,000, 6-year bonus of $6,000
  • Refuel/Bomber Aircraft Maintenance – 4-year bonus of $3,000, 6-year bonus of $6,000
  • Special Warfare Operator Enlistment – 6-year contract of $50,000
  • Survive, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Specialist – 6-year bonus of $40,000
SERE Specialist holding a log
US Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Rumke, a Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) Specialist with the 66th Training Squadron, poses with a shelter log at Colville, Washington. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Ariel Hawkins / 336th Training Support Squadron / DVIDS / Public Domain)

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Word of the new bonuses follows similar announcements from other branches of the military. This includes the US Navy, which is offering a $25,000 signing bonus to recruits who are willing to be shipped off to boot camp this summer, and the US Army, which has begun offering up to $50,000 in bonuses to new recruits.