Friday, August 25, 2000

AF changes Base of Preference program

RANDOLPH AFB, Texas (AFPN) -- Air Force officials have changed the Base of Preference program, known as BOP, for first-term and career airmen to help improve retention and maintain stability of the force.

Recently implemented changes include expanding the eligibility criteria for the first-term airman Base of Preference Program and initiating the Career Base of Preference Program, formerly known as the Volunteer Enlisted CONUS Assignment Program, or VECAP.

According to Gen. Michael E. Ryan, Air Force chief of staff, "This initiative speaks volumes for Air Force leadership's commitment to improve retention for our enlisted force. We're extremely hopeful we can get more of our people assignments to locations of their choosing and these folks will respond by staying with us."

The current first-term airman BOP program is very small and applies only to those desiring to remain in place or retrain.

"We are expanding the program dramatically to allow almost every first-termer re-enlisting the opportunity to participate," said Lt. Col. Michael Gamble, chief of Assignment Programs and Procedures Division. "If you're at Seymour-Johnson AFB (N.C.), wanting to get to Holloman AFB (N.M.), and you're willing to re-enlist, then you make an application. If manning supports, we'll work it."

However, Gamble cautions, there are no guarantees. "With first-term BOPs, we are looking at gaining manning. 'Is there a requirement I can put you in?' If not, we'll work alternatives with you."

The other program receiving a facelift is the VECAP, now renamed the Career BOP. Currently, members must have five and-a-half years to apply and move at the six-year point. "We want to liberalize this requirement so that members can apply at the three-point-five-year point and move at four years, if approved," Gamble said.

Officials at AFPC say they look at losing and gaining base manning, as well as overseas vulnerability, when making assignments for career airmen. "If you're a 7-level in a key midmanagement position at Tinker and you want to go to Hurlburt Field, but moving you there will cause mission problems for Tinker, then your request will be denied," added Gamble.

All BOP applicants may request a maximum of eight bases. Those requesting more than one will be considered in priority order. "If we can work your first choice, its' game over," said Gamble. "If not, we'll take a look at your second choice and try to make that happen."

If none of the preferences can be worked, the airman may immediately apply for other bases, as long as they remain eligible. Additionally, they can re-apply for the same bases six months later to see if manning has changed at that base.

The exception will be for first-term airmen. Since their BOP application is submitted in conjunction with re-enlistment and retraining, they will be unable to submit multiple applications. But the good news is they will be offered alternatives immediately if their choices can't be approved.

A new Web-based BOP application is also available for individuals with access to the World Wide Web. Members desiring a continental United States to CONUS permanent change of station BOP, other than in-place, can now apply through the AFPC home page -- choose enlisted, military assignments, AMS Web login. This application is similar to the current process for updating an assignment preference worksheet using AF Form 392.

Gamble cautions people to use their "BOP chit" carefully because back-to-back BOPs will not be authorized. "If your goal in life is to get to Moody (AFB, Ga.), but you list other locations on your application, manning at Moody could drive us to approve your second or subsequent choices" said Gamble. "Should that occur, you will not be eligible to apply for a BOP to Moody as your next assignment."

The enlisted assignments program will still be requirements-driven. But according to Lt. Gen. Donald L. Peterson, Air Force director of personnel, "We strongly believe BOP will allow us to better balance individual desires with mission requirements."

(Courtesy of AFPC News Service)