Why you should act now to get your A&P

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Recently the Air Force announced (yet again) that they had too many people and that they were going to encourage people who had plans to make a move to the Air Guard or Reserves to make that transition early. The reason being given was the economy and COVID, which are in fact linked together.

All through 2019 and into the first few months of 2020 the civil aviation industry was in a panic. The projected shortage of aircraft mechanics was coming to fruition. Some regional airlines were offering $60K sign on bonuses and others were offering free toolboxes to newly minted mechanics straight out of A&P school. If you already had your tickets and experience you could get a job in almost any location that you wanted. Then March 2020 happened, and we all know the story from there. The airlines stopped flying and hiring and started laying people off. A&P schools shut down or postponed classes. The demand dried up overnight and our booming economy came to a crashing halt. Millions unemployed and being evicted.

So here sits SSgt Bagodonutz, who in January had planned to separate in early 2021 and get one of them there high paying airline jobs. He had planned to get his A&P using his experience and have Air Force COOL foot the bill. But because of the economy he has decided to take a wait and see attitude and maybe reenlist if things don’t get better on the outside. And there’s no reason in his mind to rush the whole A&P and AF COOL thing since he can just do it a little closer to the date when he knows how things are going to turn out. Good plan right?

WRONG!!!

SSgt Bagodonutz wasn’t in the military in 2014 so he doesn’t know that due to tight budgets the AF cut nearly 20,000 people in just a few months. And many of them were in aircraft maintenance career fields that just a few months earlier had some really nice reenlistment bonuses tied to them. Lots of people who had made rank quickly, and received stellar EPR’s thought they were sitting pretty for a secure career and retirement. Then WHAM! They were blindsided and out the door. Lots of senior NCO’s begged the Three Amigos (James, Welsh, Cody) not to do it because it would gut the maintenance workforce for years to come and create a detriment to sortie generation for years to come. But it all fell on deaf ears and sadly the prophecies of the NCO’s all came true, all while the Three Amigos rest comfortably away from the stinky mess they created.

In the meantime SSgt Bagodonutz thinks that he is secure and can ride out the bad economy safely wrapped in the bosom of Mother Air Force. After all, he’s good at his job, and has a line number for Tech, and get glowing EPR’s. And yet Mother Air Force has too many people. But surely she won’t just toss him out on the street? That’s what nearly 20,000 people thought in 2014.

Now let’s just look at his other fallback, Air Force COOL. Maybe, just maybe, SSgt B was not paying attention this last July and didn’t hear that all Preparatory Schools were removed from funding because AF COOL had run out of money. No real notice, just gone, and permanently. Nothing about it being temporary until the next fiscal year when funding could be restored. Just gone with a stroke of a Generals pen. Now fortunately funding was restored about four months later, but some transitioning folks got caught in the middle and had to either pay out of pocket or abandon their plan.

So SSgt B might think that things are still great since AF COOL funding was restored. But he also is not taking into account another variable that may throw a monkey wrench into his great plan. That big variable is the policies of whoever the President turns out to be in 2021.

Our intrepid NCO was not in the military during the Presidency of Bill Clinton (1993-2001) and in fact even most of his leadership wasn’t either. But ask the maintainers who were. Talk to some of the Air Guard and Reserve people who were and ask them what it was like. I can tell you for a fact that the military was fiscally gutted. Programs were slashed and they even stopped buying parts for aircraft. Some units were keeping jets in the air purely via cannibalization of large numbers of aircraft and many had also broken into their War Readiness Spares Kits (WRSK) to keep jets flying. There was a period during the Clinton Administration that most units could not have gone to a real war with a major power.

For arguments sake, let’s say we get a President and political party in power that doesn’t like the military and would rather spend money on social programs. What do you think might happen to military spending? Yes, I know there are checks and balances but those didn’t stop Clinton from gutting the military. They didn’t stop a General from killing a portion of funding for AF COOL.

My point is this. Don’t sit around and wait to see how things play out. You could find yourself out on the street in six months or AF COOL defunded and no A&P. And then the economy starts picking up, people start flying again and the airlines are desperate for mechanics. And you have no A&P and have to take an unlicensed job instead. And that could impact your pay in the short term by $10-30K a year.

Yes you might get a job as a military contractor making a really good income, but the point is that without the A&P you are limiting your options. And wouldn’t you rather have as many options as you can? So don’t put it off to a more convenient time, because as we all know, it’s never convenient. Get on it now and get it done before the opportunity is taken away.