Limited Chances for Return to Active Duty - Pilot and Navigator Positions

Voluntary Return to Active Duty (AD)
Assignment Opportunities
for Pilots & Navigators 


If you are in a component of another service, check the Interservice Transfer web page.  If you are RETIRED from another service, you are not eligible for Interservice Transfer or Recall to the USAF.

This program does NOT apply to non-rated personnel.

This program is NOT a LIMITED Return program [activation to AD for only a few months].  This is for Return for a minimum of 2 years, with opportunity to serve on AD until retirement.

More Return information is located in AFI 36-2008, Voluntary Extended Active Duty (EAD) for Air Reserve Commissioned Officers. This is available through the AF Electronic Publications Library at:


At this time, we are NOT offering Return for:  

 Retired aviators seeking flying positions.
The number of retired officers allowed to return to active duty is limited to extremely small numbers.  This USAF policy has been revised to allow greater numbers of retired aviators to be Returned...but to rated STAFF positions only.

 Aviators CURRENTLY in a deferred promotion status.
If the USAF separated you from active duty for non-selection for promotion, you are NOT eligible [even if since promoted in a reserve component].  If you elected to separate after one deferment, and was subsequently promoted in a reserve component, you may be eligible.

 "Civilians" who are not in a some type of reserve status. 
This program is for commissioned officers still in some type of reserve status.  If you have completely been discharged from all reserve status, resigned your commission, etc. you are NOT eligible under this program.

 Non-fighter pilots seeking flight duty in fighter aircraft 

 Fixed-wing pilots seeking duty in USAF helicopters

 Helicopter pilots seeking duty in USAF fixed-wing aircraft

NOTE: We are not offering pilot flight positions for non-pilots.  We will NOT Return a non-pilot and send them to pilot training.  

Flying Positions: You may be considered for a flying position in the AD USAF if you:

 Are current/qualified in a USAF Major Weapons System (MWS). Officers current and qualified in an active duty Air Force aircraft will be assigned to the same aircraft if Returned to a flying billet.

or if you: 

 Flew a USAF MWS fairly recently.  
Our training pipeline is currently overtaxed.  If you would require pipeline [basic qual] flight training, we are probably unable to offer you a Return [to fly] at this time.  In general, folks non-current for 5 years or more require basic qual pipeline training, and are therefore not likely to be offered Return to a flying position.

Note concerning flight duty in non-MWS aircraft:Our major energy is to Return aviators into a MWS or to the U-2.  We may entertain applications for return to AD positions in trainer aircraft [T-1, T-6, T-37, T-38] and operations support aircraft [C-9, C-12, C-21] in a few case-by-case situations.

Staff Positions:  Another option available for pilots and navigators desiring Return is to fill rated staff billets. Officers selected to fill these billets are not guaranteed flying positions after their staff tours.  Staff positions are generally not open to officers below the grade of  O-4.  Staff positions may be open to RETIRED officers as well.

Voluntary Return


Where would you put me if I apply for the Return? OR
Can I come back to Active Duty and do _____? 

There are 4 distinct agencies here at AFPC that have specific [separate] pieces to the Return puzzle.  [Note:  The commercial prefixes are area code 210, then 565-xxxx.]

Agency 1.  Rated Pipeline and Trainer Assignments Branch [Special Flying Programs DSN 665-2306] – They provide GENERAL information, program oversight, etc.  Do NOT ask them: "Do you need me?"  "Is there anything out there?"  "Where would I be used?” “Is training available?” “Can I get to Langley?”  Those are questions for Agency 2 or 3 below.

 Agency 2.  Rated Staff Assignments Branch [DSN 665-2453] – They provide general info as to which staff [MAJCOM] has the most likely need for your specialty and background.  They can tell you “the biggest shortage of helicopter pilots to staff is to the Air Force Academy,” or that “We need fighter pilots to AFMC but not to ACC,” etc.  Do NOT ask them for a specific position or job [e.g., “Can I be Chief of E-3 stan/eval at HQ ACC?”], because they will not be able to offer that until your application package is reviewed, etc.  Do NOT ask them the administrative process of the IST/Return…those are questions for Agency 4 below.

 Agency 3.  Fighter/Bomber Assignments Branch [DSN 665-2711]  the Airlift/Tanker/Helo/Recce/C2 Assignments Branch [665-8723] – They can tell you what your likely utilization options might be, which flying base is most needy of your aviation skills, what is the availability of flight training, etc.  Do NOT ask them the administrative process of the IST/Return…those are questions for Agency 4 below .

Agency 4.  Accessions [DSN 665-2068] Specific admin details about the Return/IST process, like what to put in the package, what FAX numbers and addresses to use, what forms to fill out, how long it will take, etc.  Do NOT ask them "Where would I be used?" or "Is training available?" etc.  Those are questions for Agency 2 or Agency 3 above.

What if I separated from the AD via the "7-day Option?"

You will likely still be eligible to apply for Return, but you will most likely be offered the same [or very similar] assignment that you turned down previously.  This prevents folks from quitting AD when they don't like an assignment, then immediately seek a "better deal" via the Return.  This is a fairness issue for those who remain on AD.

What is the Active Duty Service Commitment?

You will receive 2-year Active Duty Service Commitment (ADSC) for Return.  Initial MWS or requal flying training incurs a 3-year ADSC, which runs concurrently with the Return ADSC.

What if I separated under VSI/SSB?

If you separated from active duty and received the VSI or SSB, you may still be eligible for Return.  Please call the Accessions Branch for details of new admin rules: DSN 665-2068 or Comm 210-565-2068.

What date would I come on active duty?

This completely depends on when you can be utilized.  For example, if you require requal training that starts 1 Feb 02, you will likely be Returned to AD in Jan 02.  We will not Return someone to sit around on AD "waiting" for several months prior to utilization.

How often are the Return boards held?

The boards are not held on a set schedule...they are held as required.  Typically, when the Accessions Branch has a half-dozen packages ready, they convene a board.  This occurs usually every 2-4 weeks, but this may vary widely.

How long does the Return process take?

This depends on several factors:  We need all required documents, and may request additional information.  Packages must be assembled for the boards.  The MWS resource managers must be available to determine utilization options.  The accessions branch needs time to get to your package in the queue.  There needs to be a Return board assembled.  The final administrative processes [final signatures] must be obtained.  Generally, 8 weeks is a fair guide, but this may vary by several weeks.  Folks requiring fresh flight physicals, an FEB for reactivation of aeronautical status, etc., can expect additional delays, as these requirements must be met prior to issuance of Return orders. 


The candidate contacts AFPC for likely utilization options.  
This email/phone call should be directed to the resource managers such as the Rated Staff or Fighter/Bomber or Airlift/Tanker/Helo/Recce/C2 assignments folks.  See the contact numbers on the previous webpage.  As stated earlier, ACCESSIONS AND SPECIAL FLYING PROGRAMS ARE NOT RESOURCE MANAGERS WHO KNOW MWS MANNING NUMBERS OR TRAINING AVAILABILITY.  If the candidate likes what he hears, and the AFPC resource manager likes what he hears, a package of written information will be requested.

The candidate submits a utilization pre-screening package to AFPC.
Submit the package IAW the guidance in the next section below.  Note that this is a call for written records that the rated resource managers will use to narrow/confirm utilization IF the candidate is brought to Active USAF Duty.  This is basically a more detailed confirmation of data likely already discussed between the candidate and AFPC resource managers.  This is NOT the official Return application [which is sent to the Accessions Branch].  

The Rated Assignments Teams determine the best utilization.
Is this candidate best utilized in staff?  Tankers?  T-37s?  Which base?  Is training available?  How soon?  What are the candidate's preferences?  Which MWS needs him more?  

The candidate submits an official application package to the Accessions Branch.
See the contact numbers on the previous webpage.  Some of the information for the official Return application package will duplicate the information requested by the rated assignments teams.  Other data requested will be quite different.  The Accessions Branch folks gather information to present to the formal board.

The Accessions Branch routes the application package for review.
The package is given a quality assessment with scrutiny on service dates, confirmation of dates of rank, promotion potential, etc.  Each reviewer jots a handwritten note on the package suggesting potential.  This is all in preparation for the board...this is not the board itself.  One of the offices that reviews the package will be the Rated Assignments Branch.  They will jot down a note of projected utilization..."Great need for the candidate in the KC-135 at Grand Forks...Training is available any time...will help correct experience woes, currently 50% manning in aircraft commanders"  etc. etc.  This is the result of the pre-screening process outlined above.  When the Accessions Branch folks ask if there is a need/utilization for the candidate, the rated assignments folks have already discussed options with the candidate as well as various areas within the rated assignments branch.  This reduces surprises for the candidate and keeps candidates from submitting formal Return applications when no acceptable utilization exists.

The Accessions Branch convenes a Return board.
This is not the smoke-filled room with a dozen colonels around a mahogany table.  When sufficient packages are ready [a half-dozen, or so], the board is convened.  Each package is sent to a handful of board members throughout the AFPC.  There may be a couple of non-rated folks in the mix, along with a couple of rated reviewers.  Each reviewer sees the package as assembled by the Accessions Branch, including the notes from the agencies in the preceding step explained above.  Each reviewer votes YES or NO and adds comments.

The resource manager provides specific utilization details to Accessions Branch.
If the board is final and the candidate is selected for Return, the Accessions Branch will request specific assignment details like Position Number, PAS Code, Report Date, Training Slots, Travel Modes, Processing Codes, etc.  The "gaining" resource manager provides this data.

The Accessions Branch contacts the candidate.  
The Accessions Branch will provide the candidate with details of the board, Return instructions, reporting information, etc.

Supplementary data is collected, as required. 
Flight physicals/documentation may be required.  Revalidation of Aeronautical Orders may be required.  A Flight Evaluation Board may be required for candidates who have been away from the cockpit for 5 years, etc.  The Accessions Branch provides details of the requirements.

The AFPC Accessions Branch cuts orders.


If you are interested and eligible for Return, Fax the following information to DSN 665-2915 or commercial (210)565-2915, attention: Maj James Milroy:

NOTE:  As detailed above, this is NOT the official application for Return that goes before the formal board.  This information will be passed to various rated assignment officers to discuss utilization options...don't spend exorbitant time and money on special stationery, binding, printing, etc...just send us the information.

Resume [no particular format]
-- Cover letter.  Clearly state your specific desires, in order (aircraft, locations, etc.).
-- Phone number and email
-- Grade and date of rank
-- Projected grade and pin-on date if applicable
-- Availability date

Last 5 OPRs

AF Form 942 (Flight evaluation history)

AFORMS flight record summary 
This should show total hours, hours in type, date last flown, etc.

AF Forms 8 (Certificates of Aircrew Qualification)
We prefer copies of ALL of them, but if that is not possible, as a minimum, send your latest 2 qual and latest 2 mission evals [or equivalent].

Source:  Air Force Military Personnel Center