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Navigating the Career Intermission Program: A Guide for Active Duty Air Force Pilots

Air Force Pilot in Simulator

The Career Intermission Program (CIP) presents a unique opportunity for active duty Air Force pilots to take a temporary break from service to pursue personal or professional goals. This program, however, comes with its complexities and potential risks that need careful consideration. Let's explore the key aspects of CIP, address common concerns, and provide strategies to navigate this program effectively.

Understanding the Career Intermission Program

The CIP allows service members to take a sabbatical from active duty, during which they can engage in civilian employment, educational pursuits, or family care. Participants return to active duty with their service obligation extended by the length of their intermission. This program aims to enhance retention by providing flexibility to accommodate life changes without requiring permanent separation from service (Air Force Official Website)​.

Key Concerns and Considerations

1. Job Security Post-Probation:

One primary concern for aviators considering the CIP is the potential risk of employment instability with airlines. Pilots worry about the possibility of being fired or not being hired if they return to active duty after the probation period. This concern stems from the need to balance military commitments with airline career progression.

2. USERRA Protections:

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) provides protections against job loss due to military obligations. USERRA guarantees that returning service members must be reemployed in the same position they would have attained had they not been absent for military service. However, USERRA violations can occur, and its protections are not always absolute (DOL)​​.

3. DD214 Documentation:

A common requirement among airlines is the submission of a DD214, which certifies a service member's release from active duty. The ambiguity surrounding the issuance of DD214s for CIP participants raises questions about the feasibility of transitioning to airline employment during the intermission​ (Air Force Official Website)​.

4. Airline Policies:

Different airlines have varying requirements for hiring former military personnel. For instance, Delta might not require a DD214, while American and United do, according to contributions by aviators in various forums.

Insights from the Community

Seeking Input from the Room:

We consulted a number of Air Force active duty pilots, both current and experienced, to gather their perspectives on CIP and address their concerns. Here's what we discovered:

Pilot's Experience:

Expressing apprehensions about the CIP, one person highlighted the possible downsides of accepting the offer, including a substantial salary reduction and the unclear job prospects in the airline industry after the probation period. It was stressed that it is crucial to explore all alternatives and grasp the potential effects on one's professional journey.

Advice from Experienced Aviators:

Experienced aviators highlighted that while USERRA provides protections, they are not foolproof. They advised considering the Guard or Reserves as an alternative to the CIP, stressing the need to evaluate the risks and make informed decisions based on individual circumstances.

Minimizing Risks:

One perspective pointed out that separating from active duty and joining the Guard or Reserves can minimize risks associated with the CIP. This route offers greater stability and allows for a balanced approach to continuing military service while pursuing an airline career.

Strategies and Advice

1. Consider the Guard or Reserve:

Many aviators suggest separating from active duty and joining the Guard or Reserves. This route offers greater stability and minimizes the risk of employment issues with airlines. Additionally, it provides a balanced approach to continuing military service while pursuing an airline career (Reserve & National Guard)​.

2. Evaluate Long-term Goals:

Aviators must weigh the risks and benefits of the CIP against their long-term career goals. It's essential to consider what is at stake and whether the potential outcomes align with personal and professional aspirations.

3. Stay Informed:

Accurate information is crucial for making informed decisions. Aviators should seek out reliable sources, engage with experienced peers, and verify details rather than relying on informal or anecdotal advice. This is crucial for ensuring that career decisions are based on solid information.

4. Trust and Hope:

Although there may be limited trust in the Air Force's retention initiatives, the people we interviewed expressed optimism, highlighting the importance of maintaining hope and believing in the potential advantages of programs such as the CIP. Nevertheless, it is essential to balance this with realistic expectations and comprehensive research.


The Career Intermission Program offers valuable opportunities for military aviators to balance their careers and personal lives. However, it comes with significant considerations and potential risks, particularly regarding airline employment stability and legal protections under USERRA. By staying informed, considering alternative paths like the Guard or Reserve, and carefully evaluating long-term goals, aviators can navigate the complexities of the CIP and make decisions that best support their professional and personal aspirations.

For those contemplating the CIP, the experiences and advice shared by peers can provide valuable insights. Engaging in thorough research and seeking guidance from trusted sources will help ensure that the chosen path aligns with both current needs and future ambitions.

For more detailed information about USERRA protections and the Career Intermission Program, you can refer to resources from the U.S. Department of Labor and the official Air Force website (DOL)​​ (Air Force Official Website)​​ (Reserve & National Guard)​.

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