PEORIA, Ill. --
Changes to the Air Force’s recruiting policy on tattoos, eczema, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, asthma and pre-service marijuana use took effect Feb. 1, now allowing some previously disqualified recruits the opportunity to enlist.
“We are always looking at our policies and, when appropriate, adjusting them to ensure a broad scope of individuals are eligible to serve. These changes allow the Air Force to aggressively recruit talented and capable Americans who until now might not have been able to serve our country in uniform,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody in a Jan. 10 release
from the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs.
The Air Force’s policy update also applies to the Air National Guard and Peoria’s 182nd Airlift Wing
Tech. Sgt. Stephen Graves, a recruiter with the 182nd Force Support Squadron, said he optimistic about the changes the policy brings.
“I think it should allow applicants - those that were previously disqualified - the opportunity to be qualified now,” said Graves.
Under the previous regulations, one in five recruits had potentially disqualifying tattoos. In one example, the Air Force had defined tattoos covering more than 25 percent of a body part as excessive and a disqualification to serving. The policy update eliminated that condition, while still disallowing tattoos all above the neck and most on the hands.
Some prior medical disqualifiers are now excusable with a medical waiver, such as eczema and asthma.
If determined to be a mild case, recruits with eczema may be able to enlist with a medical waiver, as will recruits with asthma who are able to pass a pulmonary function test.
Other disqualifiers are now excusable on a performance basis.
Recruits who previously took prescription medication for ADHD can enlist with a waiver if they have demonstrated 15 months of stability in academics or on the job without the medicine. Instead of a limit of how many times a recruit used marijuana, the service will evaluate recruits for histories of substance abuse disorders, addiction and legal issues. The Air Force, however, did not change its zero tolerance policy for drug use after enlistment.
Graves said he believes that the changes are a result of the National Guard Bureau paying attention to cultural trends and are that the bureau is adjusting the regulations to include a wider variety of well-qualified candidates.
“Once individuals start knowing that it’s a little easier to streamline the process, I think we should be able to process more individuals,” Graves said.
Tech. Sgt. Darrin Kesler, also a recruiter with the 182nd Force Support Squadron, encourages anyone interested in joining the Air National Guard, as well as those previously disqualified, to contact his office at 1-800-241-1331.
He emphasized that those interested should contact the recruiters sooner rather than later, due to the new policy’s potential to increase the Air Force Surgeon General’s waiver processing time, which will ultimately allow recruits to join.
“Come give it another shot,” Kesler said. “I never had any intentions of joining the military, let alone the Air Guard, and I did. It was one of the best things that I did. Fortunately, I had some people that gave me some second chances, so use this as your second chance and take full advantage.”
The Illinois Air National Guard offers benefits
for part-time service, including a grant for four years of tuition to state-supported colleges, a monthly stipend while attending college, health insurance, up to $20,000 in enlistment bonuses and job training that can be used in the civilian workforce. Being a Guardsman also means having the opportunity to serve in the military while being stationed in the local community.
Kesler said the office sees recruits ranging from 17 to 40 years old who have never been in the military before, and they often make long-lasting friendships after they enlist.
Similarly, the Air National Guard’s military role is also community based.
The Air National Guard's mission
is to be the first choice for homeland operations when activated by the state governor for emergencies and natural disasters, as well serving as the proven choice for the war fight when mobilized by the U.S. president. In the meantime, Airmen remain always on mission by training part-time in their career fields one weekend a month and two weeks per year.
(Information was used from an article by the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs.)