A personnel specialist in the Air Force is like the human resources manager at a civilian company. They counsel airmen on their career goals, advising on things like promotions, training programs, and job specialties.
Personnel specialists are also tasked with managing the Air Force's retention programs and advising airmen on benefits programs. They're responsible for making sure the Air Force is in compliance with personnel policies, directives, and procedures.
Although the duties are similar to those of a civilian HR manager, there are many functions of this job which are uniquely military. Personnel specialists oversee a wide array of administrative functions such as duty status changes, leave programs, casualty assistance, and official documents such as letters of reprimand.
In short, if a matter seems like a human resources function within the Air Force, chances are it falls under the duties of the personnel specialist.
Duties and Responsibilities
Personnel specialists in the Air Force are, in many ways, much like their counterparts in Army career counseling and Marine career planning. The Air Force personnel specialist acts as a kind of high school guidance counselor, only on a much larger scale.
Air Force personnel specialists seem to combine the role of a counselor with that of basic administration, which is usually a separate career field in other branches of the service. Unlike career counselors in the Army, Navy, or Marines, who are often the only person in their career field stationed at a given unit, personnel specialists are more likely to work in large teams, sharing and dividing different specialized duties.
Unlike career counselors in sister services, Air Force personnel specialists can join at entry-level provided they are high school graduates. The Enlisted Classification Manual adds that "courses in English composition and speech [are] desirable." The Air Force recruiting site also suggests that, although not required, interest or skill in business, art, education, or logistics may indicate a good fit for the 3S0X1 career field.
Candidates also need a qualifying score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) before enlisting, with a score of 45 on the verbal expression (VE) segment of the test. They need the ability to speak distinctly and should be able to type at least 25 words per minute to graduate to apprentice level after technical training.
After eight and a half weeks of Air Force basic training, new airmen assigned to the personnel specialty move to Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, where they attend the basic personnel course for about a month. While there, students are part of the 81st Training Group 404, which oversees a program for over 13 different career fields and where "[o]n a given day, more than 5,000 students attend classes in one of over 600 courses."
Personnel specialists can combine their training and experience with off-duty education to earn a degree in Human Resource Management from the Community College of the Air Force.