Identifying Factors that Affect the Retention Behaviors of Aircraft Maintenance (21A) and Aircraft Maintenance (21A) and Munitions and Missile Maintenance (21M) Officers

Allison M. Barkalow


Currently, the Aircraft Maintenance (21A) and Munitions and Missile Maintenance (21M) career fields are having a difficult time filling key Field Grade Officer (FGO) leadership roles due to increased requirements and decreased manning levels. To help alleviate this issue in the future, leadership needs to develop effective retention strategies. This paper presents a foundation for the development of a 21A and21M retention strategy, by highlighting the main reasons that motivates 21A and 21M officer to continue to serve, and what factors influence their decision to leave before 20 years. The researcher conducted a qualitative study, interviewing nineteen 21A and 21M officers (demographic representation) to gather data on their motivators, as well as determine effective incentives. Content analysis revealed that high job satisfaction and extrinsic USAF benefits are the top two motivators in an officer's decision to continue serving. On the opposite side, poor leadership and low job satisfaction are the main influencing factors in their decision to leave the USAF. The first step in an effective retention strategy is understanding the values and motivations of its employees, this paper provides that perspective for career field leadership.