The Air Force is encouraging retired pilots to return to active duty to fill rated staff positions and help alleviate manning shortages within the pilot community, the Air Force Personnel Center said in an announcement Monday.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson approved the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty Program on July 11. It is one of many initiatives the Air Force is implementing to try and retain qualified pilots and improve their quality of life, said Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Michael Dickerson. This includes making sure pilots are used effectively, Dickerson said.

The Air Force is trying to increase the number of new pilots it trains each year by 200, while simultaneously increasing retention bonuses as an incentive to those thinking of separating, Wilson said in an Aug. 31 editorial board meeting with Air Force Times.

“We are a service that is too small for what’s being asked of us,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to come up with a better way of assessing manpower needs.”

Volunteers for VRRAD would help fill positions where pilot expertise is necessary, said Maj. Elizabeth Jarding, VRRAD rated liaison, in a press release Monday.

“We will match VRRAD participants primarily to stateside rated staffs that don’t require re-qualification in a weapon system, with emphasis on larger organizations like major command staffs,” she said. “They’ll fill critical billets that would otherwise remain vacant due to the shortage of active-duty officers available to move out of operational flying assignments.”

Eligible retires holding the Air Force Specialty Code 11X can apply on the Retiree Officer Assignment landing page of mypers.af.mil.

Pilots under the age of 60 who retired within the last five years at the rank of captain, major or lieutenant colonel, are eligible to apply. Participation is limited to only 25 retired pilots, with the active duty tour lasting 12 months, Dickerson said.

Additionally, applicants must be medically qualified for active duty with a flying class II physical and must have served in a rated staff position within the last 10 years, or have been qualified in an Air Force aircraft within the last five years, according to the press release.

The AFPC will accept applications until Dec. 31, 2018, or until all openings are filled, whichever happens first. Retired pilots returning to active duty will only deploy if they volunteer, but will not be eligible for an aviation bonus.