Force shaping: planning for your future

  • Published
  • By Maj. Juliana Astrachan
  • 71st Mission Support Squadron
As a new lieutenant in the early nineties, I remember all too well the uncertainty and fear members of our force faced under reduction in force conditions.
Officers and enlisted members with anywhere between seven to 15 years of service were asked to accept separation incentives, early retirement or face the unpredictability of a separation board.
I specifically remember some members who failed to plan, prepare or seek assistance to aid them in their decisions for the future. Even as a new lieutenant, I couldn't help but wonder why these seasoned enlisted members and officers weren't taking proactive steps to help themselves. In many cases they simply let the system run its course, ultimately allowing the "chips to fall where they may."
Today, lieutenants in the 2002 and 2003 year groups are facing the same uncertainty with force shaping boards aimed to "right size" career field overages. Many of you may have attended the recent force shaping briefing and may have questions regarding your options and which road you should take. As you ponder your plight, I recommend you take three options under consideration -- expect the unexpected, find alternatives and search for solutions.
First, as in every life situation, expect the unexpected. There are things in life we never expect nor can we control: a car accident, death of a loved one, a family crisis, divorce or worse. You may have no control over the outcome of the force shaping board, but you do have control over how you prepare and respond to it. Are your military personnel records in order? Have you discussed your options with your supervisor or commander? Have you sought assistance and advice from the family support center, civilian personnel or the education center? You owe it to yourself to be prepared and fully equipped with all the information available to you.
Which leads to my second point. Have you considered alternatives to a career in the military? If, by chance, the Air Force deems you should be separated under force shaping, what will you do? Do you want to serve in the civil service arena? Do you have educational goals? You may have a valuable skill set which may easily transfer into the civilian world. Consider your options and lay out a course of action should the military select you for separation.
Finally, search for solutions. You can spend your energy worrying about what "might happen" or you can keep moving, determine a course of action and move forward. Use your resources and seek guidance to assist you with your decision. Don't be afraid to consult your friends, family, supervisors and commander to discuss your options and goals. A wise man once said, "...if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." Don't let the "system" determine your life's course, be an advocate for your future.