Uncle Sam Wants You – and He’s Willing to Pay

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Are you visiting the Lowcountry Graduate Center to finish that master’s degree in engineering, because you know it will open career opportunities for you? Here is one opportunity you might not have considered: the U.S. Air Force or U.S. Air Force Reserve.

Like many businesses in the private sector, the Air Force is recruiting heavily in a variety of professions, like health care, law, theology, engineering, and aerospace. The shortage of nurses, doctors, lawyers, chaplains, pilots, navigators and a variety of STEM graduates has prompted the Air Force to boost some of its benefits and offer signing bonuses and retention incentives to people in these fields. 

People in industry and academia often overlook the military because they harbor images of military life culled from the movies. These images often cast an image that serving in the military is a daily life of firefights in the expanse of Afghanistan or some kind of never-ending boot camp, which is a far cry from the life that most Air Force officers experience. 

Financial Security 
The financial benefits of a military career are significant. Free or dramatically reduced cost family health care, free educational benefits, a housing allowance while serving on active duty orders, low-cost VA home loans and a retirement plan that’s the envy of most private sector employees are just the starting points. Active duty members and Reservists on 30 day or more orders can fly for free stand-by on military transport aircraft going anywhere in the world.

During an Air Force career, there are endless opportunities for more training applicable to both the military and the private sector. Retired or separated military officers don’t often lack for job offers. 

Travel the World 
If you like to travel, the Air Force offers assignments around the nation and overseas. Although active duty Air Force go where they are assigned, and often change locations every couple of years, members of the Reserve – who typically serve one weekend-a-month and two weeks-a-year – can serve near where they live. 

Col. Pete Ferguson served active duty after graduating from The Citadel, took a few years away from the Air Force and then joined the Air Force Reserve as an intelligence officer. During his career, he had the opportunity to serve on an extended active duty tour in Germany, a fabulous opportunity for him and his family. 

“The military paid for all our moving costs to Germany,” he recalled. “Once there I had the option to live on base or off base, utilizing a housing allowance provided by the military. We chose to live off base with German neighbors and spent lot of time getting to know them and experience the culture. It was a great opportunity for our kids to really understand our country by living somewhere else. They discovered things they had come to expect in our society weren’t universal. The kids learned the language and have international friends. Plus, we got to travel all over Europe as a result. They would learn history lessons [in school] and then we would go see and experience them.” 

Commitment to the Military 
There are some unique requirements of serving in the Air Force, but are often misunderstood. Those who join as officers typically have a four-year commitment, but most choose to serve longer. While members of the military are assigned according to the needs of the service, and can be deployed any time, the Air Force makes a concerted effort to send people to assignment locations where they want to go.  

Col. Ferguson says, as a reservist, he’s been involuntarily deployed only once in his career – in the wake of 9/11. Deployments typically last six months to a year and often come with bonus pay depending on location. 

Okay, you’re thinking, but I’m a lover, not a fighter. Because the Air Force’s primary mission is to fly, most of its supporting work is behind the front lines. Wherever they are, the accommodations rarely look like the tents you saw on M*A*S*H. 

“One thing I love about the Air Force is their commitment to take care of its service members and their families.  You see that in everything they do, including the quality of bases, living facilities and services to family members,” Col. Ferguson said.  

For more information about opportunities to serve in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Air Force Reserve, you can contact Col Pete Ferguson at (843) 830-0680 or at peter.ferguson@us.af.mil.