It is well documented that the tactical air community has difficulty retaining qualified aviators to serve as department heads. Most proposed fixes cluster around an increase in the size of and more flexible terms for the aviation department head retention bonus (ADHRB). While both concepts have merit, the ADHRB could have a more meaningful impact if it were offered earlier—to the most competitive junior officers (JOs). The most important negotiation between JOs and the Navy happens well before screening for lieutenant commander (O-4) and the completion of their minimum service obligation—for most, near the end of their first operational tour as they prepare for a subsequent shore tour. To be most effective, this is where negotiations for long-term retention must take place.
Keep the Best Junior Aviators with the Retention Bonus
By Lieutenant Commander J. M. Charapich and Lieutenant R. A. DePaolis II, U.S. Navy