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"Airlines pursue military pilots and mechanics"



Thursday, January 4, 2001

Airlines pursue military pilots and mechanics
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service


Civilian employers are putting retention pressures on the Department of
Defense (DoD) by battling each other to hire away some of the department's
best-trained and talented service members.

"There has been pretty tremendous competition for our very talented people,"
said Navy Vice Adm. Patricia Tracey, deputy assistant secretary of defense
for military personnel policy. Retention will continue to be a high-priority
issue for DoD "for the next decade, at least," she added.

In fiscal 2000, Tracey said, all the services except the Air Force met their
retention goals, keeping critical cadres of career troops. Though the Air
Force finished short, she noted, its 2000 retention rate was better than
1999's.

Tracey called competition from the private sector "a major factor in
retention right now," especially in the aviation career fields. She said
aviators and mechanics from all the services are being courted by an
expanding airline industry.

Air Force affected more than other services
"The Air Force is feeling pilot loss rates more than anybody else does
because they make up such a large portion of their inventory," she said. The
service is responding by working on an expanded bonus program for its
pilots, she added.

Civilian employers also covet service members for their high-quality
training and for their leadership abilities.

"You can see particular head-to-head competition in the aviation career
fields and high-tech career fields of all kinds," Tracey said. "For our
mid-grade officer and enlisted leaders, though, there is high demand just
for their leadership skills, almost no matter what their particular skill
is."

Yet, military plane and helicopter pilots are especially targeted today by
corporate recruiters.

"There is clear evidence helicopter pilots are as much in demand in the
commercial aviation world, as there is a shortage of pilots across the
board," Tracey said. "The Army has had to pay close attention to retention
of their warrant officer helicopter pilots."

Congress agrees to retention bonuses
DoD has secured authority from Congress to offer retention bonuses to
members qualified in a critical military skill. Under this authorization
services would recommend selected officer and enlisted skills to the
Secretary of Defense for inclusion within the bonus program, said DoD
military compensation specialist Army Col. Jeff Perry. He said the
initiative could be implemented in 2002.

"The new program would allow us to pay bonuses for critical officer and
enlisted skills out through 25 years of military service," Perry said.
"Right now, the current selective re-enlistment bonus program cuts off at
14."

He noted this new authorization was similar to that enacted last year for
the aviation (pilot) bonus program. Changes to that authority extended the
eligibility for pilot bonuses from 14 to 25 years of aviation service, and
increased the maximum bonus offering to $25,000 per year. This bonus is in
addition to monthly flight pay that tops out at $840 for senior aviators.

"In the history of the all-volunteer force, there has always been a need to
pay very close attention to whether you are retaining the right people in
the right skills in the right numbers," Tracey said. "This is a very smart
force . I think it is very important to be very honest about the fact that
we know they are in demand."

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