Air Force Reserve provides option for separating active-duty members

Master Sgt. George Higgins, Air Force Reserve recruiter briefs active duty service members about the palace chase program Dec. 1 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. This program allows active-duty members to separate early in exchange for an additional commitment with the AFR or Air National Guard.

Master Sgt. George Higgins, Air Force Reserve recruiter briefs active duty service members about the palace chase program Dec. 1 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. This program allows active-duty members to separate early in exchange for an additional commitment with the AFR or Air National Guard.

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- There comes a time in all Air Force members’ careers when they face a life-altering decision: what to do when their active-duty days are over.

For many enlisted members and officers, continuing to serve their country as Air Force reservists offers one option.

Air Force Reserve Command specialists assigned to Air Force installations worldwide provide active-duty members with all the information they need to arrive at that decision and take the steps necessary to become a reservist.

“We talk to active-duty members about continuing their service to their country and tell them what the Air Force Reserve has to offer,” said Master Sgt. George Higgins, AFRC in-service recruiter at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. “They’re able to keep wearing the uniform and are entitled to the Reserve’s benefits.”

Higgins, who served on active duty for four years before becoming a reservist more than a decade ago, said active-duty members can apply for one of two programs if they intend to serve in the Air Force Reserve.

The Palace Front program allows all members to transition to the Air Force Reserve once they have completed their enlistment contract, while the Palace Chase program gives enlisted Airmen an opportunity to join the Reserve when they have finished half of their first active-duty agreement, he said. Officers must complete two-thirds of their first active-duty contract before they can enter the Reserve through the Palace Chase program.

Briefings provide enlisted members and officers with the information they need to chart their future following separation from active duty, Higgins said. They include Palace Chase and Palace Front briefings as well as a session called the Informed Decisions briefing. He also counsels Airmen individually.

“The Informed Decisions briefing is just to inform all first-term Airmen 12 to 18 months from their date of separation about the programs and opportunities available to them if they do decide to separate,” he said.
At JBSA-Randolph, the Informed Decisions briefing occurs the first or second Tuesday of each month in building 66, Higgins said.

While the Informed Decisions briefing is more broad-based, covering both re-enlistment and what to expect when entering the civilian world, the Palace Chase and Palace Front briefings focus specifically on Air Force Reserve options, he said. Palace Chase briefings are scheduled quarterly and Palace Front briefings are held monthly.

Serving as a reservist offers several advantages, Higgins said.
“The main advantage is the flexibility the Reserve offers,” he said.
Traditional reservists serve 39 days a year – one weekend a month plus two weeks a year – while individual mobilization augmentees have the ability to complete all service days at once.

The Air Force Reserve’s health care program is another plus for reservists, Higgins said.

“It’s called TRICARE Reserve Select,” he said. “It costs less than $50 per month for an individual and less than $225 per month for families.”

Because most reservists also have jobs in the civilian sector, the Reserve provides them with additional income, said Higgins, who also serves as an in-service recruiter at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, and at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. Master Sgts. Karen Ericson and Cindy Rositas serve JBSA-Lackland as in-service recruiters; Rositas also serves half of the Air Force population at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.

Still other benefits of being a reservist include opportunities for advancement, paid vacation, training, tuition assistance and access to base exchanges, commissaries, fitness centers and other amenities.
The Air Force Reserve has proved to be a popular option for active-duty members assigned to JBSA-Randolph, Higgins said.

“More than 33 percent of all qualified separating active-duty members continued their service in the Reserve during the last fiscal year,” he said.

Higgins said he finds satisfaction in his job by being able to make sure active-duty members have all the information to make the best decision moving forward for them and their families.

“I would hate to know that there was someone I could have helped make a better decision only if they had the information to do so,” he said.

For more information about the Palace Chase and Palace Front programs, call JBSA-Fort Sam Houston at 925-8103, JBSA-Lackland at 671-7362 or JBSA-Randolph at 652-7532.