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“We have warning lights flashing,” said Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, the officer in charge of recruiting for the U.S. Air Force. His warning, issued earlier this year, comes in contrast to the sentiment just four months earlier, when the service achieved its recruiting and staffing goals for the first time in half a decade. According to Air Force Magazine, more than 500,000 currently serve in the Department of the Air Force, including 326,000 active-duty airmen and Space Force “guardians.”

In January, Thomas said, “We believe FY22 goals are attainable but will be tougher to accomplish than in at least a dozen years. Two years into COVID-19 and amid U.S. labor shortages, our pool of qualified applicants is about half of what it should be at this point in the year.”

As a result, Thomas said on Monday (April 11), “As we roll up our sleeves in the battle for talent, we’ve got to remain competitive as we go after our next generation of airmen.” To help meet that challenge the service is offering enlistment bonuses for more than a dozen jobs in maintenance, cyber operations, linguistics and special operations through Sept. 30. There is also an $8,000 bonus to sign on as an active-duty airman able to launch basic training within five days should a last-minute slot become available.

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