source GAIA package: Origin key: Sx_MilitaryTimes_M6201310307160022 imported at Fri Jan 8 18:18:10 2016

The Air Force has decided to begin nominating airmen to fill developmental special duty assignments.

Until now, the Air Force has relied on volunteers to fill those roles, but has had difficulty finding enough airmen willing to serve in those assignments. But in a memo obtained by Air Force Times, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said that switching to a nomination process is necessary to keep special duty positions filled.

"Historically, we have relied on volunteers to fill these critical positions, and while they have done great work, we cannot afford to allow these positions to go vacant waiting for individuals to volunteer," the memo said. "Therefore, we are instituting a nominative process that both matches airmen's capabilities to the position and ensures the position does not go unfilled."

The changes will affect how the Air Force finds new career assistance advisers, military training instructors, military training leaders, non-commissioned officer Air Force Academy military trainers, Airman and Family Readiness Center NCOs, first sergeants, NCO honor guard members, recruiters, and professional military education instructors.

Beginning July 15, the memo said, commanders will nominate their best performers to serve in developmental special duty positions. Personnel teams also will work with career field leaders to make sure the right people in the right numbers are picked to fill those jobs.

"Similar to our current command chief selection process, nomination for a developmental duty assignment is an honor — it expresses a commander's confidence in the airman," Cody and Welsh said. "This approach also ensures more sustainable, robust manning levels for each developmental special duty position."

Cody and Welsh said these changes will make sure the special duty positions are filled by the most qualified airmen.

Changes to the special duty selection process have been expected for weeks. Chief Master Sgt. Steve Nichols, the Air Force's enlisted force policy branch chief, said in a release Tuesday that the new process will help open a leadership development career path for promising enlisted members.

"The special duties identified are leadership positions with broad impact on airmen, families and the future of the Air Force," Nichols said. "This change allows us to ensure that we are systematically preparing the best of the best to assume their place as tomorrow's leaders."

The Air Force said that the nominations are open to staff, technical or master sergeants with at least four years of service remaining before they reach high-year tenure. Nominees also must have shown excellence in their career field, a skill level that matches their grade, and have an overall rating of 5 on their last three enlisted performance reports. And beginning in October 2014, nominees who have not yet completed their Community College of the Air Force degree must be within 12 hours of completion, the Air Force said.

Chief Master Sgt. Charles Mills, the Air Force Personnel System airman assignments division superintendent, said in a release that nominees must have at least an 80 on their last two fitness tests, or at least a 90 on their most recent test, and cannot have failed any portion of the test.

"As role models and mentors, nominees must maintain very high standards," Mills said.

Airmen can currently earn up to $450 per month in special duty pay, depending on the assignment. Special duties do not yield promotion points, but they can be looked upon favorably at promotion time. However, many airmen see a special duty assignment as a career-killer, since they are taken away from their normal jobs.

The memo does not say if the Air Force will provide additional incentives to serve in special duty assignments.