The Air Force has announced that any Airman or Guardian who has not received the COVID-19 vaccine will not be allowed to permanent change of station (PCS). This newest move runs parallel to similar stances in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.

While the Navy and Marine Corps have already said vaccine refusers will get the boot, it is still not clear what the Air Force intends to do with those who refuse.


A Shot Across the Bow

A memo that began circulating on Facebook and Reddit November 23 shows that beginning November 29, any Air Force members who have not been fully vaccinated, begun the vaccination process, or don’t have an approved waiver, will not be allowed to PCS, unless they are already in the process of moving. This PCS freeze affects those overseas as well, with date eligible to return from overseas (DEROS) being pushed back in 120-day increments. Those DEROS dates are set early in the overseas PCS process. Force projections are often based on those dates.

What is this going to mean for the Air Force? A lot of headache and heartache, that’s what. When a servicemember PCS’s overseas, the report no later than date (RNLTD) and DEROS are already set. Force projections have already been determined, and there are a finite number of stations a returning member can move to. Determining numbers at individual bases is a balancing act: how many will be lost to attrition? How many will “rank up” and be moved to other sections or units? Solid dates for incoming Airmen and Guardians give planners the best guess for how to allocate people.


Air Force COVID vaccine memo
COVID Vaccine Memo from Deputy Chief of Staff of Manpower. (Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page)


Will the Air Force Vaccine Policy Affect Manning?

Determining a requirement, giving it a drop-dead date, then throwing a wrench into the plan is the antithesis of efficiency. The coronavirus introduced complications no one could have foreseen, but the response has been haphazard at best. With this newest policy, planning for manpower is reaching a critical point.