Palace Chase, Palace Front offer stability during transition

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Your enlistment is almost up or maybe you're thinking about leaving active duty early; what do you plan to do? Do you plan on going to school? Do you have another job lined up? Do you have all your ducks in a row to help you with that transition?

With all of the opportunities that Palace Chase and Palace Front hold, there are plenty of reasons to consider one of these programs to help you make that transition into civilian life once you leave active duty.

Goodfellow's Air Force Reserve in-service recruiter, Master Sgt. Dean Fitzpatrick, said he's here to help people make an informed decision that will best help them meet their goals, regardless of what they may be.

"I spend time with my applicants so I can find what best benefits them," he said. "I see them through the whole process and I don't dump them off on anyone."

The Palace Front program allows individuals who have completed their enlistment, whether they are an officer or an enlisted member, to join the Air National Guard or the Air Force Reserves, traditional or Individual Mobilization Augmentee.

The Palace Chase program allows individuals who have completed at least half of their enlistment requirement to exit active duty early and finish their commitment in the Air Force Reserves, traditional or IMA, or the ANG. This program also applies to both officer and enlisted members.

In mid-April, Air Force officials temporarily reduced the Reserve commitment for those entering the Palace Chase program to one-for-one. This means for every year a member has remaining on their active duty enlistment equals to a year they will serve with the Reserves. This temporary Palace Chase commitment waiver ends June 30 and the member must be separated by Sept. 30. After that, the program goes back to three-to-one for officers and two-for-one for enlisted.

"The earlier we can get started, the better," Sergeant Fitzpatrick said, because finding a base with an opening in the member's career field and one that's close to where the member wants to go, may take some time. As long as the member graduated technical training school, then they can stay in their career field; otherwise, they will retrain into a different field.

"Don't give up on me and I won't give up on you," he added. "It may take a little push or pull, but together we'll find the best opportunity for you."

Not only can members stay in their career field, those entering either the Palace Chase or Palace Front program will keep their current rank, too.

"You don't have to test to get promoted in the Reserves," he said. "As long as you meet the (professional military education) requirements and there is a position where you're going, you can get promoted."

In addition to keeping your current rank and career field, other advantages of both programs include maintaining that sense of camaraderie and pride felt in the active duty circle, ability to select where you want to live, and flexibility with serving only two days a month and 15 days a year.

They are also still eligible to receive their Montgomery G. I. Bill or Post 9/11 Bill. Servicemembers who have served at two years of a four-year service commitment, or three years of a six-year commitment, in active duty status receive approximately 80 percent of the Bill. Servicemembers who have served three years of a four-year commitment, or four years of a six-year commitment can receive up to 100 percent of their Bill.

Senior Airman Luis Loza Gutierrez entered the Palace Front program a year ago after completing his four-year enlistment at the 17th Training Wing. Now stationed with the 433rd Airlift Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, he said he didn't want to leave the service, but family matters required more attention and he needed more flexibility. Airman Gutierrez said he plans to stay in the Reserves until he completes his bachelor's degree and then return to active duty as an officer.

"Joining the Reserves allows me to still be part of the team and keep the camaraderie, but it also allows me to take the time that I need to help out my family," he said. "Before making any decision, you have to ask yourself what are your personal and professional needs. To me, it's better to be a Reservist in the long run than to completely leave (the service)."

Sergeant Fitzpatrick said the most important benefit though is the life insurance and medical care the Guard and Reserves offer.

"Once you leave active duty, the coverage that you've gotten used to goes away," he said "A lot of people don't think about that when they think about leaving active duty."

For more information about Palace Chase or Palace Front, contact the Air Force Reserves in-service recruiter at 325-654-3586 or Dean.Fitzpatrick@goodfellow.af.mil, or the Air National Guard in-service recruiter Master Sgt. Timothy Tanner at 405-739-4911 or Timothy.Tanner@tinker.af.mil.

Officers who are interested in the program may contact the Total Force Service Center at Randolph Air Force Base at (800)525-0102 or at www.afpc.ranolph.af.mil.

(Airman 1st Class Jessica D. Keith contributed to this article)