Air Force, Space Force raise max enlistment age to 42

by Tommy Grant

Aspiring airmen and guardians now have until the age of 42 to join the Department of the Air Force.

Department leadership quietly upped the age limit for new enlisted and officer recruits by three years on Oct. 25. The change arrives around a month after the Air Force missed its recruiting target for the first time since 1999.

“This opens the aperture to allow more Americans the opportunity to serve,” Leslie Brown, the chief of public affairs for the Air Force recruiting service, wrote in an email to Air Force Times. “The accession age of 42 allows an Airman or Guardian to serve a full 20 years since the retirement age is 62.”

The Air Force fell roughly 2,700 airmen short of its recruitment goal this year. Its space-focused sister service fared better, surpassing its 472 enlisted recruit benchmark.

Service recruiters continue to fight a confluence of headwinds on the way to reaching recruiting targets, including a strong job market and waning youth interest in military service.

Air Force officials anticipate that the new age ceiling will attract around 50 more recruits per year. In recent months, they also softened once strict rules surrounding tattoos and past drug use to lower barriers to entry without, they hope, compromising the quality of recruits.

The Air Force last revised its age cutoff for service in 2014, raising the bar from 27 to 39. Hundreds of recruits in their late thirties have joined the ranks since.

Jaime Moore-Carrillo is an editorial fellow for Military Times and Defense News. A Boston native, Jaime graduated with degrees in international affairs, history, and Arabic from Georgetown University, where he served as a senior editor for the school’s student-run paper, The Hoya.

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