The Truth About 6 Year Contract For The Air Force. Do You Have To Take It?

What Air Force Jobs Require a 6 Year Enlistment? Do I Have To Take A 6 Year Contract For The Air Force?

So you have passed your ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test and have set a date to go down to the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) for your physical. 

First of all, to take a quick side bar, this physical is a FULL medical exam, you will NOT be doing sit ups, pull ups or running any miles or any kind of PT (Physical Training) at all, you will be attempting to get medically qualified. 

I will speak more on MEPS in another post to come later. 

So, you are at the MEPS and you make it thru the physical (medical exam) and now you are ready to sit down and speak with one of the USAF (United States Air Force) MEPS job counselors also known as LNCO’s (Liaison None Commissioned Officers) again, I will go into more details about the MEPS process in another blog to come later. 

So there you are sitting in front of the LNCO with your list of jobs you qualify for and everything is moving right along until the LNCO ask you if you are interested in the six year option.

You don’t really know what to expect in the Air Force so you kindly decline, and then the smooth sailing process stops for a moment and the LNCO starts to ask you why your are not interested.  You say, because you are not certain yet of the job you are going to get or if you will even like being in the Air Force. 

The LNCO then proceeds to talk about the benefits of the 6yr contract for the Air Force and then says “you do not need to make the choice now, I just need to know if you are even interested” then you say “Well I “MIGHT” be interested”, and then the LNCO says “OK, no problem, I will mark you down as interested but you can talk to your recruiter more about it and make your final decision the day you EAD (Enter Active Duty) which is basically the day you ship out to BMT (Basic Military Training)

Once you are done at MEPS, you head back to see your recruiter that day or the next for your DEP (Delayed Entry Program) briefing. Before the briefing starts the recruiter congratulates you on becoming qualified for the Air Force and probably gives you a goodie bag of USAF stuff. Then during his DEP briefing he starts to talk about this darn Six Year Enlistment Option again, so now in the back of your mind you are thinking “what gives with this 6yr option deal?????”

Sooooo, what is the skinny on this 6 yr contract for the Air Force?? 

What is the is the real deal straight up truth about this 6yr deal?   

Well it is simple, it comes down to two things: Retain-ability and competition points.

That’s right people, the Recruiting Squadron (SQ) , the Recruiters and MEPS,  amongst a few other USAF military key players, are all competing on who can get the most 6 year enlistments!!!

Now before you start ripping up your 6yr contracts or yelling for your mom or dad to come read this, let me explain how this 6 year enlistment thing actually works and how it actually benefits YOU

The competition is simply to keep the recruiters motivated and a tool the USAF uses as a way to recognize and reward the recruiters that are not only doing their job well but also recruiting people for the jobs the AF needs.

This is how it works.

When you are at speaking with the MEPS LNCOS, you will pick the jobs that you are interested in. This is also the time why you will say whether you are INTERESTED in the 6 year option. If you will notice though, the contract you sign (form 3005) is actually only a 4 year enlistment option contract.   

That is because UNTIL the USAF matches you with a job, FROM YOUR LIST,  you are only eligible for a 4 year option.  Once you are matched with one of your jobs,  “IF”  the 6 year enlistment option has been APPROVED by Congress, THEN you will be offered the option. 

Thats right, the 6 year enlistment option is NOT ALWAYS an automatic thing, so if your recruiter told you that the 6 yr option is NOT always available, he/she was telling you the truth. 

The 6 yr enlistment option has to be approved EVERY year and the MEPS is NOT allowed to even send your recruiter a contract with the 6yr option until it HAS been approved. 

Once approved,  the option is good for ONE fiscal year (Oct 1st thru Sept 31st)  so for EXAMPLE:    If you processed on, lets say Aug 17th 2012,  and you got matched with a job on September 23, 2012 and that job has an Air Force Basic Training date for November 17th 2012,  you will not even be given the option to sign a 6 year agreement option until after Oct 1,  2012, because your ship date is PAST that Sept 31, End of Fiscal year date. 

So since your job EAD’s (requires you to leave for Basic Training) in the NEW Fiscal year, you will have to wait and see if the 6 year option will be approved first.

Your MEPS will know if  the 6 year enlistment option for your Air Force job been approved or not about the first week in OCT.  

Not to worry though because realistically and statistically speaking,  there hasn’t been many times where it wasn’t approved, so relax those of you that were starting to sweat and get nervous because you really wanted the option. 

So getting back to my point, once you are matched with a job and the 6 year enlistment option has been approved, your MEPS will send your recruiter your job contract for you to sign and you will have 30 days to accomplish this.  If you have changed your mind about the jobs you selected, you do not have the ability to decline.  

Once again that is a whole other topic which I will  post about, so be on the look out for that post,  I will be posting it very soon.   It  will be all about the JOBS, the process of listing them and how the whole USAF job matching process works.

How Does The 6 Year Contract For The Air Force Benefit You?

The 6 year enlistment option has one major benefit to most people that apply and that is  “ACCELERATED RANK“.  air force rank promotion

Without having anything to get you advanced rank you will start out as an Airman Basic (AB) which is Pay Grade of an E-1.  To go from E1 to E2 (Airman)  takes 6 months and to go from E2 to E3 (Airman First Class) takes another 10 Months for a total of 16 months before you can make E3.


Now lets first look at the pay difference between E1 and E3:   Click Here to view a pay chart As you can see the pay difference is (as of Jan 2013) $271,  Pretty significant isn’t it? 

This is How the Air Force Accelerated Rank Works.

If you accept the 6 year option, upon completion of Technical Training (also referred to as Tech School) OR 20 Weeks, whichever comes first, you will be promoted to Airman First Class and start getting PAID for E3!!!!!!!WOOOW

Yes instead of you having to WAIT 16 months right out of Tech School, you are putting 2 stripes on your uniform and getting $271 more dollars per month.  Not a bad deal when you really look at it huh? 

I am pretty sure that extra cash can do everything from pay on a NEW CAR NOTE to a plane ticket to fly that special someone down to see you.

So what if I don’t like the USAF?

I don’t wanna be stuck for another 2 years.

I don’t want the 6 year because I don’t know what to expect.

Typically these are the main reasons why people decide to NOT take the 6 year option. 

These objections are what make people pass up an extra $271  per month. 

So since we have come this far let me break things down and put them into perspectiveStarting with reason 1.

What if I don’t like The Air Force?

This is a very good question, what if you don’t like the Air Force? 

Well if you are not gonna like something wouldn’t it be better to at least be getting paid a little bit more for it????? LOL.

Seriously, many of you reading this don’t like your current job and if your manager came to you and said “if you would promise me you will stay for 2 more years I will not only give you an instant pay raise right now of $271 per month, but on the anniversary of the day you started, I will give you about a $250 dollar bonus” (lets call this a clothing bonus for you to go and buy yourself some new clothes for work) and also every Jan 1st I will also give you a raise. 

Now stop reading and for a minute just try to imagine how that would feel to have that extra cash in your pocket and just knowing that on your anniversary date you will be receiving a BONUS and to put the cherry on top,  you will also receive Annual pay raises!!!!!!! OK….Come on back to reality now because that is NOT about to happen and we Air Force pay raiseboth know your boss is NOT about to do that, but I will tell you who will…….The USAF will, when you accept a 6 year enlistment agreement option.  

So putting it into that perspective, had your boss called you and made you that offer when you first started reading this post you wouldn’t have even made it past the title because you would have turned your computer, IPAD, cell phone or whatever your using to read this post, off. It would have been turned off and you would be out celebrating and already spending that extra cash along with everything else that you are getting with the 6 year option.

Keep in mind there are a ton of other benefits you’re getting also. 

So now for excuse number 2: I don’t know what to expect when I join the Air Force.

Ahhhhh the fear of the unknown.

This very excuse is what has stopped so many who could have been on there way to greatness.  Think of how much wasted talent is out there in the world, it all steams from the fear of the unknown.  Someone wants to sing on American Idol but they’re not sure if they’re good enough. They don’t know what to expect.  Everyone wants something but they don’t want to take a risk and make a move due to the fear of failure.  What if the Wright brothers decided that because they didn’t know what to expect when it came time to see if those planes would fly? Where would the world of air travel be today??? 

What if the guy who designed the first roller coaster decided that because he didn’t know what to expect that he was not gonna pursue this dream of his????  Would there be a Six Flags??? 

So will 2 extra years down the road really make you miss out on the things the money and rank can get you right now?? 

One thing new Air Force recruits can’t quite understand is the feeling of having rank on your sleeve. 

What they also cannot begin to understand is how important it is to have rank when you are in a world controlled by RANK. 

Once you are in the USAF you WILL at some point in your early career hear the Phrase:  R-H-I-P…which stands for Rank Has Its Privileges.  Now let me quickly give you an example. 

Prior to becoming a recruiter I was in the mechanical field so my job in the Air Force was to fix air planes. I was one of those people that did NOT take the 6 year option (one of my only regrets) So here is a question I want to pose to you….when you are an Aircraft Mechanic and ALL your planes are flying and nothing is broken (and it will happen) what will you as an Aircraft Mechanic be doing all day??? 

No clue right? 

Well let me tell you what we did, we played basketballl in our hangar, played cards, took long lunches, etc.  Well at some point the supervisor is going to say “we aren’t paid to be standing around doing nothing or to play basketball and cards all day”. He will then proceed to say “let’s get out there and get the grass around the hanger cut”, or “lets go pull all the weeds that are groing around the hanger” here’s my favorite one “lets get the buffer out and buff the hanger floors”. 

Now here is the million dollar question…..who gets to do all this crap? 

When he said “lets” you didn’t think that meant he was going to help did you?

Well the first thing you will hear the people with two stripes say is R-H-I-P.  That means it always came down to me, the guy who didn’t take the 6 year option. I was the one that got to go handle all the tedious “yet highly important” tasks. 

Now this R-H-I-P works in ALL career fields so it doesn’t matter if you are a paper pusher or a cop you WILL have those tedious “yet important” tasks that no one really wants to do and it will be in that moment when you know the true meaning of R-H-I-P.  

Now there are other benefits to the 6 year enlistment as well. One is that it will help you in getting promoted to E4 (which is a SrA (Senior Airman)) faster. This has the added benefit of helping you possibly get promoted to  E5 (which is a SSgt (Staff Sergeant)) faster as well.

As you start progressing into the NCO corp you have to test for each promotion. These promotions are based on a point system and part of that system is TIG (Time In Grade). Therefore if you took the 6 year option and advanced faster you would have MORE POINTS than someone who did not get to rank up as quickly as you did. 

As you can see there are quite a few benefits that the recruiter or MEPS LNCO never mentioned to you.

By now you are probably thinking I am pushing the 6 year enlistment agreement option like everyone else, but no that is NOT the case.

I am simply attempting to give you all the facts  in order to help YOU make a well informed decision. 

Here are some more facts: 

Someone that has 3+ years of ROTC or 45 semester hours of college credits, will automatically get E3 so there really is NO benefit to them taking the 6 year option other than keeping them in their jobs and gainfully employed for another 2 years lol.  I guess if there was a downsizing,  sort of speak,  in that persons job, during the year they were due to re-enlist, they could be denied re-enlistment in that career field and would have to cross-train in order to stay in the Air Force

But other than that really isn’t a benefit to this particular person taking the 6 year Air Force contract………UNLESS they had a job that offered a Bonus. 

Currently ANY person who joins the Air Force with a job that offers a bonus HAS TO DO A 6 Yr contract to get the bonus. 

Another fact is that some recruiters require a recruit to take a 6 year option if that recruit requires a waiver to join The Air Force.

Well this is solely at the discretion of the recruiter or that Air Force recruiters leadership. 


If you require a waiver to join the Air Force and they tell you that you will have to agree to a 6 year option, go ahead and agree to it and get that waiver but on the day you ship out, should you decide you want the 4 yr option instead, go ahead and tell the LNCO because the MEPS CANNOT legally make you sign the 6 yr option.

When you initially sign your Air Force contract you don’t actually finalize it until the bottom  of the contract is signed and you can’t sign the bottom (finalize the contract) until the day you ship out or EAD.  

So if anyone at MEPS ever tells you that because you have a waiver you must join the Air Force for 6 years, you simply tell them you changed your mind and only want to sign for 6 years. They will try to change your mind but like I said, legally they can not force you and eventually they will get a new 4 yr contract printed up for you.

MEPS knows that if you changed your mind and decided NOT to ship out for Basic Training the Recruiting Squadron would lose BIG POINT in that competition thing I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

So trust me, the SQ would rather give you a 4 yr contract ANY DAY than to take a cancellation on Ship Day (Known in the USAF recruiting world as a Ship Day Canx [cancellation])

So there you have it.

  • There is a competition going on in the Air Force recruiting world but there are also many benefits to taking the 6 year enlistment agreement option if you are ineligible for E-3 any other way.
  • There is no real benefit for someone that already gets E3 UNLESS they have a job that offers a bonus.
  • You cannot be forced to take a 6 yr option (unless the job requires it)

This brings me to one final point to mention about the Air Force’s 6 yr enlistment option. 

There ARE actually 3 jobs in which you are REQUIRED to take a 6 year option

The only reason that these jobs require you join the Air Force for 6 years is because the tech school is so long that the USAF would like to get at least a few good years from you for the amount of time and money they spend training you for these jobs. 

These 3 jobs are

  • ATC (Air Traffic Control - 1C131
  • Airborne Cryptologic Linguist – 1A831 and
  • 1N331 Cryptologic linguist which is basically the ground version of 1A831

If you are wondering what those codes are at the end of the jobs they are AFSC’s (Air Force Specialty Codes)

As you can see I have a vast knowledge of recruiting and the whole process of how things work and I do honestly think the 6yr option is a GREAT deal if you don’t already get to start off in the rank of E3.  So feel free to leave me comments and I would happy to post a reply to your questions (If MSgt Reed doesn’t beat me to it)


Good Luck,


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