Officer Assignment Process

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.
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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.

Assignment Priorities

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.

  1. Air Force Mission Needs
  2. Officer Professional Development
  3. Career Field Functional Priorities
  4. Individual Priorities.
OPD being number two is what shocked me, I would have expected it to be number three.  What this means is the AF is not going to put you in an assignment which will be terrible for your career.  For example if you were a squadron DO as a Capt, the Air Force is not going to make you a flight commander at your next assignment.  This can get murky depending on your AFSC and special circumstances, but it is important to know that your assignment team has the best interest of your career in mind.

Year Group Milestones

Any time people are discussing anything related to an officer career, you will hear the term "year group."  Your year group is the year you commissioned.  Here are the general milestones I was given as a 2015.  I know I talked about how your first 4-6 years plays a large role in vectoring your career, but we are talking about a small percentage of a long timeline.  Similar to applying to OTS, don't get caught up in the small details of your career.  Always be thinking about the big picture and how each piece fits into the puzzle.  I share this to show you I have long-term Situational Awareness on my future so I can better gauge the meaning if something changes (e.g., First look Squadron Commander pushed up to 2029).  As a disclaimer I will say this is all info based on my own personal notes from the information I was given; it is not official information.

2015 Year Group (YG) for 13S Space Operations

Major Board (IPZ)

Intermediate Developmental Education Board (First, Second, Third Look) (Officer PME)
2025, 2026, 2027

Director of Operations (DO) Board (First, Second, Third, Fourth Look) (DO job)
2025, 2026, 2027, 2028

Lt Col Board (2 BPZ, 1 BPZ, IPZ)
2027, 2028, 2029

Squadron Commander Board (First, Second, Third, Fourth Look)
2030, 2031, 2032, 2033

Senior Developmental Education Board (First, Second, Third, Fourth Look) (Officer Adv. PME)
2032, 2033, 2034, 2035

Colonel Board (2 BPZ, 1 BPZ, IPZ)
2033, 2034, 2035

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