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Deciding if I want to get out of the Air Force

WraithXt1WraithXt1 Registered User regular
edited January 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
I'm having a really hard time deciding what to do right now, and whether anyone comments on this or not I just wanted to write it all down and put it out there.

I work as a Contract Specialist/Contracting Officer, AFSC 6C051. Basically I write contracts for the Air Force in order to purchase supplies, services and construction. I've been in the Air Force 6 years now. I reenlisted in 2009 for 4 more years and got a 50,000 dollar bonus. 20,000 of that is now locked away in an investment account. I have no debt, but also no savings outside of that 20,000. I have two years left on my enlistment with the Air Force, after which I'd have to reenlist for four more years and possibly get a more hefty 70/80,000 dollar bonus.

My issue is that I dont love the job. It's mostly boring, menial and time consuming. I dont feel rewarded most of the time. The only time I do is when I'm deployed. Our opstemp is high, were in blocks of six months deployed, six months at home station. That's a LONG time to be deployed, you know? It's not 100% for sure that I'd go every time, but it's damn close right now. I would be gone again for the second time in three years if I hadnt hurt my shoulder and gotten surgery.

I have an Associates Degree with the Community College of the Air Force, and an APDP Level 1 certification. Of course I have free education while I'm in. I also have the GI bill if I get out.

If I stay in, I deal with the deployments and possibly losing my girlfriend due to distance (this would be the fourth one lost due to distance). I'd also keep all of the benefits of the military like health insurance and such, as well as the travel opportunities. I dont hate the Air Force, and I do enjoy being "in the club". Its hard to describe the feeling of being a part of something bigger, but I do enjoy that no matter what I'm on a team.

If I get out, I understand that contracting jobs are always available. I'm going to start applying to places now to see if I get any leads, maybe if I can nail something down I can get out with a job waiting for me. Or maybe I can make some insider friends to get me hired at a great place like Microsoft or Google. I'd get out in a heartbeat if I could work for one of those companies. I'd work in contracting, but I'd be working with something I enjoy, technology. As well as being paid much, much better. I currently make 26,000 dollars a year thereabouts in the military, food and housing provided. My starting salary, from what I gather, will be around 80,000 or possibly more if I can get my 4 year degree. The reenlistment bonus of 80,000 dollars for 4 years of my life doesnt look as good when I'll be making 45,000 dollars more per year. I'd just need to work a year and change to make up for the difference.

It's scary leaving the security of the military, having all of your life provided for you and everything laid out in black and white. I'm feeling extremely insecure about everything and I was wondering what others in my situation have done? I'm sure some other PA Forum members have been in my situation. I wonder what made you decide one way or the other?

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WraithXt1 on

Posts

  • Pure DinPure Din Boston-areaRegistered User regular
    Ok, I don't know much about the military, but I am a computer scientist and have several friends who work at Microsoft, Google and such, and have personal familiarity with the recruiting and interview process at both Google and Microsoft specifically (PM me for details). From what you've said here, 80k doesn't sound like such a big jump in money if you're living in a high-cost area, paying your own housing and food and healthcare (as a contractor). Can you elaborate a bit on your educational goals and what it is you'd want to do for a career?

  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    So, I'm probably going to sound kind of asshole-ish here, but I'm not trying to be down on you; I think you need to gain some perspective on a few things.

    First off, most jobs are menial and boring; it's sort of the nature of jobs. Jobs at Google and Microsoft tend to be menial and boring for 120 hours a week; but they pay commensurate with that, and they are really fucking hard to get hired at. It sounds like you don't hate this job, which is, honestly, the level of job most people settle for; very few people really love their job, and it's much easier to find happiness in the things you do while you're not working. That being said, I recognize that the military is less a job, and more a way of life. That sort of pay, honestly, really isn't that bad when you consider that you get a healthy amount of paid leave, all of your medical and dental 100% paid for (which is huuuuuge), as well as free housing; the private employment market is far less forgiving, even if you're doing military contracting. You should really take a good, hard look at pros and cons, and figure out whether you genuinely think you would be happier being out, or if this is just a case of "grass is always greener" syndrome.

    That being said, the question you're asking yourself probably shouldn't be "do I want to do this for four more years?" The question you should probably be asking yourself is "do I want to do this for twelve more years?" You're at the cusp, now, where--from an economic standpoint--it seems like it would make very little sense for you to stay in just four more years. Because after those four years, you're going to be a mere eight years away from a decent pension and free medical care for life (please, correct me if I'm wrong, and the Air Force is different from the Army or Navy; I'm far from an expert on the subject).

    So, the way I see it, I think there are some very good arguments going both directions, and I certainly wouldn't fault you for taking either choice; however, it seems like if you're going to get out before you hit your 20 years, now is the time to get out.

    Thanatos on
  • BloodycowBloodycow Registered User regular
    I wouldn't hold the Air Force to that 70/80k bonus in two years. DoD is slashing bonus's for pretty much everything, but SOF jobs. At least on the Army side. No idea about the AF. Just don't count on that bonus being there in two years.
    There are a few people in my unit now that are switching to 51C (contracting for the Army) as E-6's because the jobs after their 20 years will be worth it better then their admin jobs now.

    Good luck to you in whatever you choose. I was going through this same decision a few months ago.

    Hated my current job, been in for 9 years. I finally just took the DLAB and am switching to 35P and headed to 7th Group after language school. The best decision for me after my time in the military for me and my family.

    " I am a warrior, so that my son may be a merchant, so that his son may be a poet.”
    ― John Quincy Adams
  • Iceman.USAFIceman.USAF Major AsiaRegistered User regular
    Stay in, get your bachelors and potentially masters largely paid for, THEN when you retire you get the sweet gig. Then you'll look back and say "Man, $80k a year is a pittance! How could one live on such small potatos?"

    In all seriousness, I feel your pain. I'm in the CE career field, and the long distance thing does suck. A lot. I've been overseas going on 2 years now (Portugal -> Germany) with another 3 or so to go. But honestly, it would take a lot for a private sector company to make up what I would lose in benefits if I left the military.

    Have you given thought to being an Air Force Civilian? Seems like it'd be the best for your current situation. You'd gain some stability but lose some benefits which is a much fairer trade.

    Are you too 'old' to consider cross training?

    I don't mean to influence you one way or another, but I just wanted to throw options out there.



  • VeritasVRVeritasVR Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    I was just going to say that there are a lot of options for Air Force Civilians with your skills that provide very similar benefits, and don't require you to move or deploy. You'd probably start as a GS-09 or GS-10 with a good bet to make GS-12 in a few years assuming you have your Bachelors. That's equivalent to a paygrade of O-3, and most of the GS-12s that I know drive Audis.

    VeritasVR on
    CoH_infantry.jpg
    Let 'em eat fucking pineapples!
  • TraceofToxinTraceofToxin King Nothing Registered User regular
    I'm guessing you're still a SrA based on your pay. Make Staff, it's a significant raise, you job gets a lot more 'interesting', as in, dealing with troops is a whole new game. You've got time to do that before your contract's up, and it can seriously change the way you look at the military. My view changed when I had to start dealing with troops, most definitely.

    I'll definitely gonna agree with Thanatos here as well. Work sucks for almost everyone, it's mostly about finding the balance between getting paid enough to tolerate it and not working so much you can't enjoy your hobbies. That's really something only you can judge.

    As for deployments, I'm Security Forces, so I feel your pain. Our buckets are all supposed to be changing to 5 months with longer rotational periods, but we know that works out. With the military draw-downs, deployments are going to be adjusting pretty significantly in the next few years as well. Whether it's more time by less people or less time by everyone, we'll have to wait and see. Deployment ratios change commensurate with rank as well, so keep that in mind too.

    You've got 2 years to be watching how things change and make a decision. I'd worry more about seperation at your 12 month mark, a lot of things can change.

    Everyday I wake up is the worst day of my life.
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    The other thing is, while it's good you're thinking about this now, you've got two more years before you really have to make a decision, and things may have changed by then.

    Regardless, I'd strongly recommend getting at least your bachelors while you can do so for free; doing it before you get out means you don't have a break in employment when you start looking for work, if you decide not to go career, and if you decide to go career, means more money for you. It's a win-win.

    Thanatos on
  • OrganichuOrganichu jacobkosh Registered User regular
    this isn't a direct response to your question, but since a lot of your concerns are revolving around money, i thought i'd toss it out there: maybe you ought to do some basic introspection about finances. you've been in for a long time now, you have housing and food provided... and a chunk that you set aside from your signing bonus is the only savings you have?

    i'd strongly recommend making some alterations to your budget and implementing a more aggressive savings plan. i think that will better prepare you for the idea of making more money and for the idea of being responsible for more financial responsibilities.

  • AF-IXAF-IX Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    In my opinion, you should really look into cross-training into a new AFSC.

    It sounds like might've been bitten by the 'high-speed' bug...I say do it.
    It sounds mean but...don't worry about your girlfriend. Relationships come & go.
    Wait until the AFSC retraining list comes out. It'll show you which AFSCs are in the critically-manned list which means they really need new people ASAP.

    Think about this...if you get out after the minimum 20-years, you can retire at 38! Things get better too as you progress. I remember my days as a A1C-SrA when each paycheck was $500-$700 and struggling to do anything. Once you make SSgt...it gets much better.

    I'm in a VERY similar situation as you.
    I'm a TSgt and just hit my 10-year mark a few months ago. I always told myself that halfway through my career...I'd want to be doing something else.
    I want to get a taste of a different side of the AF. So now I'm cross-training into either TACP or Aerial Gunner.

    It's ALOT easier to cross-train as an Amn than it is as a NCO.
    The numbers for TSgt are pretty low, even for the critically manned-manned jobs.
    Once you make MSgt...you're pretty much locked into whatever AFSC you're in at that time.

    AF-IX on
  • andrew.g09andrew.g09 Registered User new member
    Im interested in the fact that people are saying SrA to Staff is a HUGE raise...A1C to SrA, is a $190 a month pay raise, SrA to SSgt is a $224 a month pay raise....a whopping $34 difference! I count my BAH and BAS as income, because thats what my check shows, so technically, as a 3 year SrA, I make $43, 968 a year, but after taxes and SGLI, family dental etc, it comes out to $36,740. $224 a month isnt anything to turn your nose up at, but its not significant, and barely more than A1C to SrA. The military benefits are great, but if you can get a job making even $50k a year as a civilian, you will be sitting pretty. The military has brain washed us, and so have most of the SNCO's. "Stay in, do your 20, retire." Why? So I can get $1800 a month pension, while still having to find a job making $50k a year to provide for my family? My whole perspective, is to start from the bottom now, while youre young, rather than starting from the bottom when youre in your 40s. Thats just me, call me crazy! My old supervisor, 24 yr MSgt, gets $1900 a month after taxes, went 8 months before finding a job after retirement, and that job he got is an Air Force civilian, GS-7 making a whopping $40k a year! Get out! The grass is greener! 73% of employers sponsor healthcare, meaning pay a percentage. The statistics below are based off of NON Sponsored heathcare premiums. Good luck!

    "Those who buy insurance without an employer-provider plan are shelling out even more, Mayne said. The average premium for a family in a non-group plan was $7,102 in 2010, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation."

  • andrew.g09andrew.g09 Registered User new member
    Im interested in the fact that people are saying SrA to Staff is a HUGE raise...A1C to SrA, is a $190 a month pay raise, SrA to SSgt is a $224 a month pay raise....a whopping $34 difference! I count my BAH and BAS as income, because thats what my check shows, so technically, as a 3 year SrA, I make $43, 968 a year, but after taxes and SGLI, family dental etc, it comes out to $36,740. $224 a month isnt anything to turn your nose up at, but its not significant, and barely more than A1C to SrA. The military benefits are great, but if you can get a job making even $50k a year as a civilian, you will be sitting pretty. The military has brain washed us, and so have most of the SNCO's. "Stay in, do your 20, retire." Why? So I can get $1800 a month pension, while still having to find a job making $50k a year to provide for my family? My whole perspective, is to start from the bottom now, while youre young, rather than starting from the bottom when youre in your 40s. Thats just me, call me crazy! My old supervisor, 24 yr MSgt, gets $1900 a month after taxes, went 8 months before finding a job after retirement, and that job he got is an Air Force civilian, GS-7 making a whopping $40k a year! Get out! The grass is greener! 73% of employers sponsor healthcare, meaning pay a percentage. The statistics below are based off of NON Sponsored heathcare premiums. Good luck!

    "Those who buy insurance without an employer-provider plan are shelling out even more, Mayne said. The average premium for a family in a non-group plan was $7,102 in 2010, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation."

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