Joining the Air Force Reserve

Air Force Reserve plane awaits postflight inspection
A C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 911th Airlift Wing sits on the flight line while waiting to receive a basic postflight inspection at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Feb. 3, 2020. (Joshua J. Seybert/U.S. Air Force)

The Air Force Reserve supports the regular Air Force in fulfilling its national security objectives by providing professionals in mission critical roles. In addition, it is a major force in your community by contributing manpower and expertise in the wake of national disaster or civil unrest to protect life and property, and to preserve peace, order and public safety.

Although the Air Force Reserve is a separate command of the U.S. Air Force, its aviators and personnel have played significant roles in all of America's wars and most of its major contingencies since the beginning of the 20th century.

If you are interested in enlisting in the Air Force Reserve, you must:

-- Join before you turn 40 with some exceptions (medical professionals, clergy, attorneys). If you have served previously, you must join before you are 40, plus time served. So if you served in the military for six years, you could join in an enlisted position until about age 46.

-- Have a high school diploma, although in some instances GED certificates can be accepted.

-- Pass a physical.

-- Complete an aptitude test (the ASVAB), which will determine career paths available for consideration. For tips on doing well on the ASVAB, see the Ace the ASVAB section.

-- For more on general Reserve benefits and pay, see the Reserve Help Pages.

Education Benefits and Skills Training

Community College of the Air Force -- The CCAF enables students to earn an associate in applied science degree. The college is only open to enlisted active-duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members. CCAF offers 71 degree programs and has more than 270,000 airmen enrolled, making it the largest multi-campus community college in the world.

To earn their two-year degrees, students combine Air Force technical training, professional military education and general education credits from accredited colleges and universities. Most technical training is completed at schools on four bases: Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi; or Lackland, Sheppard and Goodfellow Air Force Bases in Texas. All technical courses are completed at CCAF-affiliated Air Force schools. For liberal arts prerequisites, students can complete these at civilian colleges and universities.

Visit the Community College of the Air Force's website for more information.

Air Force ROTC

If your hope is to become an Air Force officer, then Air Force ROTC is one of three ways to achieve that goal. With detachments at more than 143 universities and colleges nationwide, and more than 850 schools offering the program with host schools in their locations, AFROTC is an excellent way to work toward a commission while obtaining your degree. The program annually commissions more than 2,000 new second lieutenants and is the oldest and largest source of commissioned officers for the Air Force.

Air Force ROTC offers 3.5-, 3-, and 2.5-year scholarships in all majors. There are two categories of scholarships:

Type I -- This scholarship offers full tuition and fees with a textbook allowance per year.

Type II -- An annual payment for tuition and fees, and an additional annual book allowance.

All scholarship cadets receive a monthly nontaxable stipend throughout the school year. To be eligible you must:

-- Have a GPA of 2.5 or higher.

-- Prior to applying for the scholarship, you must complete at least one term of full-time, college-level work (does not include college-level work during high school) and have at least 24 semester hours of college-level credits.

-- Meet weight, fitness, medical, age, citizenship, Air Force Officer Qualifying Test score and other eligibility requirements.

Selection goes to the most qualified students. Those selected must participate in the AFROTC program and successfully complete a field-training encampment after selection.

After completing all AFROTC program and degree requirements, students will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force and serve a minimum of four years on active duty.

If you are interested in becoming a pilot, all pilot slots are selected during the junior year on a competitive basis. Good college grades, physical fitness, medical qualification and military performance are the keys to selection.

Visit the Air Force ROTC's website for more information.

Officer Training School

Officer Training School is an intensive 12-week program that prepares officer candidates for the technical, physical and professional requirements of commissioned service. Approximately 1,000 OTS graduates enter skill training or supervisory positions each year in all major career areas. In years past, OTS has surged to meet wartime officer requirements in its "flexible partner role," producing as many as 7,000 new second lieutenants in one year.

Montgomery GI Bill for Selected Reserve

The MGIB-SR allows you to attend school full time while serving in the Reserve or National Guard and get more than $10,000 for school in addition to your paycheck and any other educational benefits you may be eligible to receive. For more on the GI Bill for Selected Reservists, go to the Reserve GI Bill section.

Tuition Assistance

The Air Force Reserve offers you tuition assistance. You can be reimbursed up to 100% tuition assistance up to $250 per semester hour, or $166 per quarter hour, not to exceed $4,500 annually per service member. For more on this program, see the Tuition Assistance Overview.

College Credits By Exam

Members of the Reserve also can take advantage of free College Level Examination Program tests (CLEP). For every test you pass on a particular subject, you earn up to six transferable college credits.

Voluntary Education

As a member of the National Guard, you also can pursue college and university courses through the Community College of the Air Force. The Community College of the Air Force provides two-year educational programs to enlisted members of the active-duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves. These programs combine Air Force technical training with general education coursework from civilian accredited colleges.

Promotions and Career Path

In the Air Force Reserve, you can expect steady advancement in rank and pay. Promotions are made with what the Air Force considers the "whole person" approach:

-- Job performance

-- Time in rank

-- Career specialty

-- Leadership

-- Job responsibility

The Air Force Reserve also looks favorably on your education. Being part of one of the most advanced branches of the military, the USAFR constantly looks for qualified people to advance to more technical positions.

Prior Service

If you have prior military service, then the Air Force Reserve is an excellent way to continue accruing time and money for retirement while continuing to serve your country and passing on your experience and knowledge. When you join the Air Force Reserve, you'll receive benefits for your prior military and reserve experience.

There are opportunities if you currently are transitioning from active duty or if you've been out of the service for a while.

Even your experience in another service could be put to good use in the Air Force Reserve, and this could be coupled with the financial and educational opportunities in locations close to where you live, work or study.

The Air Force Reserve Experience

The Air Force Reserve offers you the ability to go to school full time or pursue a civilian career while serving your country. As a member of the Air Force Reserve, your commitment -- after going through basic training and your initial technical schools -- will be for one drill a month and one period of annual training per year. People with no prior military experience who join the Reserve will incur an eight-year obligation. These eight years are broken down into two segments. The first six years, you will be an active participating member. The last two years, if you choose, you will be in the inactive ready reserve. Although you are not active within the Reserve, you will be subject to being recalled in the event of a national emergency.

Drills -- A drill consists of two days of training per month. Your pay will be adjusted automatically for cost-of-living increases. You'll get pay increases for every two years of accumulated service and may earn special duty pay. To calculate your drill pay, visit the Drill Calculator.

Annual training -- Annual training in the Air Force Reserve is held for two weeks per year. Depending on the unit and your specialty, you could be stationed at a shore location, with an aviation squadron or aboard ship.

Travel -- As a member of the Air Force Reserve, you will have the opportunity to travel on duty and off. You also qualify for military space available travel within and between the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico. For more on military travel options and benefits, see the Travel Center.

Life insurance, medical care -- The Air Force Reserve provides comprehensive medical care while on duty. You also qualify for low-cost life insurance. For more on these and other benefits, visit the Reserve Help Pages.

Home loan program -- Members of the Air Force Reserve with at least six years of service are eligible to apply for the Department of Veterans Affairs Home-Loan Guarantee program. For more on this program, go to the Home section.

Base privileges -- As a member, you can access all recreational facilities on military bases, such as gyms, tennis courts and libraries. You and your family also can enjoy unlimited access shopping at any Military Exchange nationwide. Air Force Reserve members and their families are entitled to use base commissaries for up to 24 days annually, plus any days spent on active duty. For more on recreational and family benefits, see the Reserve Family and Individual Help page.

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