By Lt. Col. Vanessa Saks, Headquarters Air Force Junior ROTC
/ Published January 21, 2020
Retired Lt. Col. Trinh Warner, an Air Force Junior ROTC instructor at Cypress Springs High School in Texas, conducts an inspection of her cadets. Before retiring as a judge advocate general, Warner applied for an instructor position with AF Junior ROTC, receiving several job offers before accepting the one at Cypress Springs in summer 2019. To apply, Airmen must be retired less than five years, have a bachelor’s degree and hold a retired enlisted grade of technical sergeant to chief master sergeant or officer grade of major to colonel. Airmen from an Air Force component can submit an application when they are within nine months of retirement and have approved retirement orders. (Courtesy photo)
What to do after retirement from the Air Force is a question that plagues many Airmen as they approach the end of their career. For one lieutenant colonel, an unsolicited email from the Air Force Personnel Center answered that question for her, and changed her life forever.
Lt. Col. Trinh Warner, an Air Force judge advocate for 17 years, was getting close to retirement and in search of a meaningful job that mattered.
“As I was praying for guidance during the time just before terminal leave, an email came to me from Air Force Junior ROTC Headquarters (through AFPC) that asked, ‘Looking for a rewarding opportunity after retirement?’” she said.
It was soon after receiving the email that she applied online for a position as an Air Force Junior ROTC senior aerospace science instructor, or SASI.
“I knew the private practice of law, while fun at times, would not give the kind of internal rewards that making a difference in children’s lives would,” said Warner.
It didn’t take very long after applying for the position that the job offers started coming in.
“Because I was very diligent in my efforts to apply, get interviewed and get approved by the Air Force, I was able to get job interviews by three schools very quickly. I had offers from all three schools, and it was a difficult decision to make,” she said.
The retired judge advocate accepted a position with Cypress Springs High School in Texas this past summer.
“After speaking with my interviewer and hearing her excitement about her experience as a SASI, I felt this was an opportunity I would like to explore.”
In the short time since starting her job, Warner has realized that her decision to become an instructor was a great choice.
“I knew I would like working with students, but my love for the Junior ROTC mission has surpassed my expectations,” she said. “Every day, cadets impress me with their initiative, dedication and drive. My expectation was there would be difficult days, but the cadets make it worth it for me.”
Airmen from an Air Force component can submit an application to become an Air Force Junior ROTC instructor when they are within nine months of retirement and have approved retirement orders.
“Air Force Junior ROTC is an amazing opportunity for Airmen to continue to serve after retirement while staying connected to the Air Force family,” said David Richerson, chief of instructor management for Air Force Junior ROTC. “We have nearly 900 officer and over 1,000 enlisted positions worldwide. We are always taking new instructor applications, and our vacancy list is updated at least weekly.”
For an application to be approved, an Airman must be retired less than five years, have a bachelor’s degree and hold a retired enlisted grade of technical sergeant to chief master sergeant or officer grade of major to colonel.
The Air Force screens and approves new applicants. Once an applicant is approved, Headquarters Air Force Junior ROTC forwards the applicant’s name to schools at which the applicant wishes to be interviewed. As the employer, the schools conduct the interviews and make the actual hiring decisions.
Once hired, instructors attend a certification course conducted by Headquarters Air Force Junior ROTC at Maxwell during their first summer and then have the opportunity to hone their skills in the classroom setting.
A typical Air Force Junior ROTC program at a high school has one retired officer and one retired enlisted instructor. The officer, as the SASI, normally teaches aerospace science courses and manages the overall program in the school. The enlisted member, as an Aerospace Science Instructor, normally teaches the leadership courses and assists with managing the various aspects of the program. Both are equally responsible to effectively lead, coach, mentor and develop their cadets.
Instructors are paid the Minimum Instructor Pay. MIP is the difference between retired pay and the active duty pay and allowances, excluding hazardous duty and special pays, that an Air Force Junior ROTC instructor would receive if ordered to active duty. Many schools elect to pay more than the MIP to attract and retain the most qualified instructors. Schools are also encouraged to adjust instructor pay based upon the individual’s qualifications and experience.
Warner offers a few words of advice for those thinking of applying.
“Being an Air Force Junior ROTC instructor is a calling; it’s not for the faint-hearted and not for those who do not enjoy being around kids,” she said. “For those retirees looking for something to do that’s bigger than themselves, I highly recommend they apply. The rewards cannot be quantified!”
Air Force Junior ROTC provides citizenship training and an aerospace science program for high school students. The objectives are to educate and train high school cadets in citizenship and life skills; promote community service; instill a sense responsibility; and develop character, leadership and self-discipline through education and instruction in air and space fundamentals and the Air Force’s core values of Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence In All We Do.
For more information on Air Force Junior ROTC and a list of instructor opportunities, visit www.afjrotc.com and www.airuniversity.af.edu/holm-center/afjrotc.