National Call To Service: Two-Year Air Force Enlistment Options

Air Force Two Year Enlistments

Brig Gen Anthony Cotton, 45th Space Wing Commander, delivers the oath of enlistment to 30 of the Air Force's newest recruits in a ceremony at Space Launch Complex 14's blockhouse at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, on August 10, 2012.
••• 45thSpaceWing/Flikr/CC BY 2.0

This National Call to Service Incentive program is a Department of Defense program that is run by Veterans Administration (VA). Under the National Call to Service program there are three layers of requirements of service to qualify:

1 – After basic training, the individuals in the National Call to Service program must serve in a job specialty designated by the Department of Defense as a critical needs billet for 15 months.

2 – After this 15 month period, they must serve their additional time or they can go into the Reserves in active status for 24 months.

3 – After this period, any period of obligated service can be done in the active duty Air Force, Reserves, or Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). One can also opt to serve in AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, or another domestic service program designated by the Department of Defense. 

As part of a Congressional initiative called the National Call to Service, the Air Force and other branches of the U.S. military introduced shorter two-year enlistment cycles. The goal of the program was to let people serve their country who might otherwise shy away from a regular four or six-year active-duty enlistment.

In the Air Force

The 15-month obligation for these airmen does not begin until they complete their initial training—​basic military training and technical training school. When airmen near the end of their enlistment, they have the opportunity to choose whether to extend their active-duty commitment for 24 months, or join the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve for the same length of time. After the additional two years of service are complete, these airmen still have another four years of service to fulfill in the reserves.

Reenlisting After National Call to Service

This service requirement can be met in the Air Force either by re-enlisting in the active-duty Air Force, extending a Guard or Reserve commitment, transferring to the Individual Ready Reserves, or participating in another national-service program such as Americorps or the Peace Corps.

Not all Air Force jobs are available under the National Call to Service program, only certain specialties. Some of these specialties will have specific requirements, such as civilian certification or training, that prospective airmen must possess before being considered for entry into the career field.

Airmen who enlist under the program can pick one of three special incentives. These include a $5,000 cash bonus, $18,000 student-loan repayment for qualified loans, or education assistance benefits comparable to the Montgomery GI Bill.

If they choose to re-enlist, airmen retain their chosen incentive and can elect to participate in the MGIB.

Part of the goal of National Call to Service was to introduce people to the military and give them a taste for what serving in the armed forces is like. It was aimed at those who wanted to serve but didn't want to make a career of the military.

Call to Service in Other Branches

The Air Force isn't the only branch of the U.S. military to offer reduced tour-of-duty incentives. The Navy, Army and Marines have all offered some variety of a Call to Service in the post-911 era.

For instance, also in 2003, the Navy announced a similar program that required 15 months of active duty service after a sailor had completed Navy school. At the time, the Navy said the Call to Service was geared toward top performing high school students looking for a meaningful experience between high school and college.

Pro and Cons

A two year term of service is enough time to test the waters and see if the military is something you would like to do longer as a career. The training received alone in these first two years can be worth a lifetime of a career training for your future. However, not all the military is in favor of such a short training service program. Though this was a popular option among new recruits and some members of Congress (who voted to implement the new rule), Some military brass believe it doesn't provide the young military personnel long enough periods of time before they move into the active reserves.

Current Status of Call to Service

Currently, the National Call to Service is still available with the Veteran's Administration however, the needs of the military truly drive how one will be eligible for the National Call to Service two year enlistment program. But, it is the shortest available enlistment program to date. After 9-11 it was used significantly, now it is still used on a case by case basis by the branches of the military.