First Duty and Future Assignments in the Military
What the Recruiter Never Told You About Assignments
There are only two services that will guarantee in the enlistment contract a specific first duty station. The Guard and Reserves also guarantee the duty station because they are recruiting to fill specific, open slots in specific Guard and Reserve units.
For everyone else, first duty station selection is made (in either basic training or technical school/AIT/A-School), based upon your preferences, and the "needs of the service." In most cases, you fill out a form, known as a "dream sheet" to list your assignment preferences.
While the services will consider your preferences, the overriding deciding factor is where the military needs you the most. If that coincides with one of your preferences, great. If not, you'll be assigned to where the service wants you.
For the most part, the "dream sheet" for your first duty assignment is best thought of as a tie-breaker, with no guarantees whatsoever.
Some Navy jobs allow your assignment to be based on your class-standing in "A-School." And of course, it goes without saying that assignments are based on valid vacancies. If you have the job of tank-fixer, you're only going to be assigned to bases that have tanks to fix.
After the first duty assignment, subsequent assignments are done a little differently. In most cases, you'll have a little more say in future assignments, than you have for the first duty assignment. There are a few restrictions, however.
First-term (those in their first enlistment) enlisted members assigned to a continental (CONUS) U.S. location must have 12 months time-on-station before being eligible to move to an overseas location, and must have 24 months time-on-station before being allowed to move to another continental U.S. location.
Career (those who have re-enlisted at least once) enlisted members assigned to the continental U.S. must have 24 months time-on-station to move to an overseas location and must have 36 months time-on-station in order to move to another continental U.S. location.
The length of time one spends on an overseas tour depends on the location. For example, most of Europe and Japan are considered standard overseas tours. The length of the assignment is 24 months for single people, or those with dependents who elect not to bring their dependents, and 36 months for those who bring their dependents.
Another type of overseas assignment, like most assignments to Korea, are considered remote. On a remote tour one cannot bring their family at government expense, and the tour-length is 12 months. On the other hand, those returning from a remote tour usually get assignment preference over those returning from a standard tour.
For standard overseas tours, one can generally increase their chances of being selected by volunteering for the extended tour length. This is the standard tour, plus 12 months.
Of course, one can be involuntarily assigned overseas as well. In general, this is done based on the military member's last overseas return date.
A follow-on assignment is an assignment after a remote tour. Those with orders for a remote tour can apply for their next assignment before they even depart to the remote tour.
When one is assigned to a 12-month remote tour, one can move their dependents anywhere they want in the United States, at government expense to live while the member is away. The government must then pay again to relocate the dependents from where they are living to the new assignment, when the member returns from the remote tour. Single people, even though they don't have dependents can use the follow-on program, as well.
It's important not to confuse assignments with deployments, which are of course based on many factors such as geopolitical situations and the need for U.S. military troops around the world.
Each of the services also has procedures for hardship assignments. This allows a military member to apply for reassignment to a specific area/base, due to a valid family hardship. The military's definition of hardship is when there are extreme family problems such as illness, death, or extremely unusual circumstances that are temporary in nature and the specific circumstances necessitates the military member's presence.
If the problem is not one that can be resolved within one year, a hardship discharge will be considered, rather than a hardship assignment.
Joint Spouse Assignments
When one military member is married to another military member, both must apply to be assigned together. This is called a joint spouse assignment. The military will try to assign spouses together, but there are no guarantees. The success rate for joint spouse assignments is about 85 percent.
Joint spouse assignments are obviously much easier to accommodate if both spouses are in the same branch of the military.
A permissive reassignment is one that doesn't cost the government any money. Most permissive reassignments are in the form of swaps, which is when one military member finds another with the same rank and job, currently assigned (or with orders) to a base they want to go to.
Both members who agree to swap must pay for their own move. This includes shipment of personal property. Usually, military personnel offices maintain lists of military people worldwide who are looking to swap. In order to be eligible for a swap" one must have the required time-on-station mentioned above. In other words, a first-termer must have 24 months time-on-station to swap with someone at another continental U.S. location.
Base of Preference
Before a military member re-enlists, he can apply to move to a base of his choice. The military, of course, wants this person to re-enlist, so they try to accommodate such base of preference requests. If approved, the member must then re-enlist to accept the assignment.
When you graduate technical school/AIT/A-school, the military will pay the authorized costs for you to go to your next duty assignment or, to the port of your military flight for overseas assignments.
Before you depart your school, you can visit Finance (with copies of your orders), and normally receive an advance (about 80 percent) of your estimated travel pay.
The military does not pay you for travel on leave. They pay you for direct travel from your old duty assignment to your next duty assignment. If you travel home on leave, any additional cost is out of your pocket.
Privately Owned Vehicle Shipment
If you own a vehicle, and get an overseas assignment, the military will either ship the vehicle for you, or store it while you are away.
Some locations don't allow the shipping of a personal vehicle and others restrict them to certain ranks. In these cases, the military will store the vehicle for you for free while you are assigned overseas.
The military will pay to move your personal property from your home location to your first permanent duty station, or, you can rent a truck, move it yourself. In such cases the military will reimburse you a portion of what they would have paid a contractor to move it.
Other Parts in This Series
FORT KNOX, Kentucky -- Army Human Resources Command has further expanded an online tool that enables active duty, enlisted Soldiers to designate assignment location and assignment preferences.
The Assignment Satisfaction Key, or ASK, program was initially fielded to fill vacant positions in deploying units, but a redesign has transformed it into a career development tool for enlisted Soldiers across the Army -- Soldiers in ranks in ranks E-1 through E-8 non-promotable.
According to Arthur Dille, a human resources supervisor with HRC's Enlisted Procedures and Soldier Actions Branch, the redesign was executed by a team of HRC specialists who went through the program, screen-by-screen.
They then analyzed and reorganized the structure to ensure it is both streamlined and functionally effective, collapsing multiple screens into one to make it easier to navigate.
"We wanted an improved look and feel, we wanted it to be usable. We cleaned it up and consolidated it so it is more user-friendly," Dille said.
"It allows for Soldiers to see requisitions, volunteer for them, and indicate their preferences for assignments. The idea is to empower Soldiers in the assignment process."
ASK has been updated to ensure that Soldiers who log in see only assignments for which they are currently eligible based on MOS, rank, time on station as of report date, and military education. The possibilities for self-nomination are limited to open requisitions organized by location.
"If there are no authorizations for your MOS and grade, that location is not offered to you as a preference option," Dille said. "It is so Soldiers can have realistic expectations."
Once submitted, requests show up in the Army's Enlisted Distribution and Assignment System, or EDAS, within minutes. HRC assignment managers can then immediately begin working the requisition.
Due to the inclusion of lower requisition priorities, the available pool of assignment opportunities has been expanded fourfold. With more options available, the hope is that more Soldiers will be interested in using the tool, Dille said. It's an opportunity for them to become actively involved in the assignment process and take control over their futures.
"We're looking not only at a bigger window, but a lot more requisitions," Dille said. "We want to have more Soldiers have more say in the assignment system with a corresponding increased approval rate."
Once a Soldier selects an assignment, the assignment manager will review the Soldier's preferences, military education, Married Army Couple Program status, time-on-station and other qualifications. If a nomination matches the Army's requirement, the manager can contact the Soldier with the good news.
If a manager wants to reject an ASK assignment, the rejection must be approved by a branch chief.
"Typically, rejection is going to be based on the strength of the losing unit or the Soldier's professional development," Dille said.
Soldiers can also indicate their availability for broadening opportunities such as drill sergeant and recruiter assignments, or other special duty interests such as Airborne or Korea assignments.
"While talent management is considerably more difficult among the enlisted ranks due to the scope and size of the force, engaging Soldiers through ASK in determining their own assignments and development helps the process," said HRC Commander, Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands.
"As the Army focuses more on talent management, the [Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate] team knew we had to provide expanded capabilities for Soldiers to have influence and a greater voice in their career development," said Col. Alan Kellogg, director of HRC's EPMD. "This tool is not only designed to build unit readiness, but also support our Soldiers and their families."
"We want Soldiers to know about the opportunities that the ASK tool provides and we want Soldier to maximize usage," said Sgt. Maj. Lynice Thorpe, EPMD senior NCO.
So far, the redesign is having a positive effect.
"We're accepting over five times more than we were before. Almost two-thirds of the assignments that Soldiers nominate for are being accepted," Dille said.
Even so, ASK is not a guarantee of a particular assignment. There remain circumstances under which HRC personnel will have to ensure that Soldiers fill the high priority needs of the Army -- regardless of their preferences, Dille said.
Flexibility remains key to Soldiers finding their best next assignments, advised HRC's Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson. Someone who nominates himself repeatedly for an assignment for which he is not qualified and then complains the system does not work is missing the point and the power of the ASK tool.
"That's important too. There are requirements and priorities. There is a possibility you may get what you want, but there is also the need to have realistic expectations," Jefferson said.
"Enabling enlisted Soldiers to influence the development of their careers is a plus for both the individual and the Army," Seamands said. "When a Soldier who wants to go to Fort Hood gets to Fort Hood, that is a happier Soldier."
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