Small Wars Journal

The AFPAK Hands Program Was a Retention Nightmare; It’s Been Transformed

The AFPAK Hands Program Was a Retention Nightmare; It’s Been Transformed by Samuel C. Mahaney - Air Force Times

… As part of a culture of feedback, commanders and airmen told AMC leadership that we needed to do something about the Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands program. Under this program, airmen spend two years — out of a four-year commitment — in Afghanistan establishing relationships with key leaders and helping to build governance structures. The task force looked closer at this program and discovered significant hardships placed on families supporting a loved one in AFPAK Hands, coupled with a lack of incentives that would appeal to volunteers. As a result, few — and often no — volunteers were coming forward. AMC airmen were turning down aviation retention bonuses and leaving the Air Force rather than signing up for an active duty service commitment and risking a non-volunteer assignment to an AFPAK Hands position. We had a responsibility to support the program, but in the face of record low retention rates, we simply could not afford to lose more airmen because of it. It was a retention nightmare. While the program is critically important, airmen were forced to choose between family and mission.


General Everhart personally led an initiative to incentivize the program, which Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein supported and subsequently implemented. The benefits of the program have been upgraded to include flying positions, a master's degree opportunity, and follow-on leadership opportunities. Though airmen will continue to be deployed two of the four years, the program provides four years of family stability at a single stateside location. It also includes a foreign language proficiency bonus, Intermediate Developmental or Senior Developmental Education in-residence credit, and full joint service duty credit. The success is measurable. With a more robust incentives package, the program now only accepts volunteers and airmen are no longer leaving the Air Force for fear of being non-volunteered to the AFPAK Hands program…

Read on.