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​CMSAF Kaleth Wright spoke to airmen at Aviano AB, Italy, on Monday during an all-call inside a 31st Fighter Wing F-16 hangar. Staff photo by Amy McCullough.

AVIANO AB, Italy—CMSAF Kaleth Wright celebrated his 48th birthday at Aviano AB, Italy, on Monday, where he started the day doing PT with airmen and then later touted a variety of quality of life improvements either in the works or under consideration that are intended to give airmen back their time.

Wright said the Air Force is in the process of analyzing high year of tenure, which requires service members to leave Active Duty if they don’t get promoted after so many years in rank, saying his “gut tells me we are going to extend” HYT for senior airmen from eight to 10 years and for staff sergeants from 15 to 20 years. He said there is “still work to be done” to extend high year of tenure for technical sergeants from 20 years to 22, “but I think we’ll be able to do this.”

The Air Force last year announced it would extend HYT for certain senior airmen, staff sergeants, technical sergeants, and master sergeants in specific career fields suffering from manning shortages. Beginning Aug. 1, 2017, eligible airmen could apply for a 12-24 month extension as the service looked to maintain experienced airmen while it closed the shortfalls.

Wright acknowledged the clock is ticking for some airmen, who have already started planning for the transition to civilian life, and said, “We want to get this done fast, but we also want to do it smartly.”

Wright said he didn’t think the move would negatively affect promotion opportunities for enlisted airmen, saying USAF will benefit from retaining experienced airmen throughout the force.

Regarding other family initiatives, Wright said the service is looking at expanding joint spouse assignments for mil-to-mil families that have children and are either divorced or never married. “There are no guarantees,” said Wright, “But the opportunity will be there as we try to suit the needs of all different types of families.”

Another “really important initiative” for families, he said, is the creation of bereavement leave, which will allow airmen to take care of their families after a death or in the event of a very sick parent or spouse without having to use all of their regular leave. “There’s still a little bit of work in that area, but I think we’ll get that done sometime this year as well,” he said.