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NEWS | April 1, 2014

Voluntary separation, retirement opens doors for outbound Airmen

By Airman 1st Class Areca T. Wilson 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

As the U.S. Air Force continues downsize through force management programs, Airmen in the of ranks technical and master sergeant, captain, major and lieutenant colonel in certain Air Force specialties are eligible to apply for retirement with fewer than 20 years of active service under the Temporary Early Retirement Authority.

TERA, one of several force management programs the Air Force implemented during fiscal year 2014, allows Airmen with at least 15, but less than 20, years of total active duty time as of Oct. 31, 2013 to apply for early retirement.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mary Atkinson, 633rd Air Base Wing protocol noncommissioned officer in charge, applied for early retirement after 16 years of service.

"I decided to take the TERA because I am prepared for the transition into the civilian sector," said Atkinson. "I have multiple college degrees and I am close to completing my Masters of Business Administration. Furthermore, the Air Force has enabled me to gain leadership skills and experience that make me highly marketable."

To better prepare themselves, Airmen can take advantage of the programs offered by the Airman and Family Readiness Center.

"Making the transition from active duty to the civilian sector is a trying time for our Service members and their families," said Dawn Teagle, 633rd Force Support Squadron AFRC chief. "The AFRC is valuable resource so they don't have go through the process alone."

The AFRC offers resume-writing workshops, transition GPS pre-separation briefings, transition GPS workshops, VA disability workshops and one-on-one counseling.

Atkinson is currently waiting for the final notification to begin the retirement process. She said she is anxious as she knows the civilian job market is "not at its best."

Though she plans on staying in the local area, Atkinson said no longer being a part of the military culture has its positives and negatives. She is also proud she was given the opportunity to perform her job, and is happy to have done it alongside her fellow Airmen.

"The decision to the leave the military is bittersweet," said Atkinson. "I will have to make the transition into the civilian world, but the lifestyle habits I obtained through the military will be an asset that will help me in the future."

Although Atkinson made the decision to retire early, she advises Airmen to take these actions only after being properly informed and developing a strategy.

"The decision to retire or separate from the military is not one to be taken lightly," she said. "Like I have told many Airmen, you must have a plan. Consider all your expenses, bills, the cost of living, and have a plan of action if you can't land a dream job right off the bat."

"Think about what you are giving up and how you will sustain your standard of living before you get out," she continued. "We all have to leave at some point. Just make sure you are fully prepared."

For more information on TERA, visit MyPers on the Air Force Portal or contact the AFRC at 764-3990.