Palace Chase and Palace Front sound like humorous terms that may be thrown around with any unit in the United States military, but believe it or not, they are the official terms for two different programs offered to military members. This article will focus on the Air Force’s Palace Chase program. All service branches should have some form of this program available to their members who wish to transfer off active duty.
The Palace Chase Program
Palace Chase is the name of the program that allows an active duty member with an active duty service commitment to convert part of their remaining commitment into a commitment in the Guard or Reserve.
According to AFI 36-3205, an active duty service member is eligible for the Palace Chase program when they have completed two-thirds of their initial service commitment. So, if you started with a 4-year active duty service commitment, you would be eligible when you only have 1 year and 3 months remaining on your commitment.
Applying to Palace Chase
To apply, the first thing you should do is find out who your in-service recruiter is at your current base. They typically are someone in or near your personnel office. Keep in mind there are in-service recruiters for both the guard and reserve. Your in-service recruiter can assist you with the paperwork, the process of applying and helping connect you with guard/reserve units. They are your best link with any questions you may have during the process.
For Air Force applicants, you will have to submit your Palace Chase application through vMPF under “Self Service Actions” and then “Voluntary Separation.” Under this application, you have to provide a justification for your Palace Chase, some required documents and a request separation date. Once you submit this application, it will then go to your Squadron Commander who will recommend approval or disapproval, and add their comments.
After the Squadron Commander, your Palace Chase application will go to your Wing Commander for the same thing. Once the Wing Commander has completed their portion, it will get sent off to AFPC where it will get routed to several other offices before finally arriving at the Palace Chase Office. There it will get boarded with about 10 to 15 other applications, to determine whether they approve or disapprove your application.
You need to allow at least 120 days for this process. So, you need to submit your application at least 120 days prior to your requested separation/terminal leave date. If your Squadron Commander or Wing Commander recommends disapproval, do not be too worried because the board will look at a plethora of factors that can get still your application approved, even if leadership recommends otherwise.
Palace Chase Justification
With that said, you really should focus on a few items in your application. Your justification is very important to the board. When you fill out your justification in the application, this is your opportunity to explain to the board why they should allow you to get off active duty, and finish your commitment with the guard/reserve. Definitely include any family reasons or major life event reasons, and spend a little time constructing a heartfelt justification, because the board does consider this.
Letter of Intent to Hire
The other main piece is to include a letter of intent to hire with your application. The board is more willing to approve Palace Chase applicants who already have proof that a guard or reserve unit is willing to hire them, but you must provide proof to them that this is true for you. This document can be uploaded as part of your application on vMPF.
Consult Your Squadron Commander
The final thing is to talk to your squadron commander before submitting your Palace Chase application. This may seem a little counterintuitive, but the board really weighs a great deal on your Squadron Commander’s opinion of whether or not you should be allowed to Palace Chase. Ensure your CO understands your reasons for wanting to Palace Chase, and make sure you understand their perspective as well. If possible, reach an agreement that you are both willing to live with, and include these details in your application.
Guard or Reserve Commitment After a Palace Chase
Now, one thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet is what your commitment will be to the guard or reserve. Your commitment to the guard or reserve is three times the amount of commitment you had left on active duty. If the board approves you to leave active duty 6 months early, you will owe 1.5 years to a guard or reserve unit.
Whether your application is approved or disapproved, you will receive a notification through myPers. Don’t get too worried if your application is disapproved by the board. You can reapply, but you do have to wait a minimum of 120 days to reapply.
The Palace Chase Board
Some facts about the board. The Palace Chase board is comprised of 3 members, one of whom is the board president. Usually, the board president is a commander of at least a squadron, and the other two board members can really be any other Air Force officers. They try to include at least one guard or reserve member on the board, but that is not always true.
The board does look over your entire application, to include your justification and your commander’s comments. They will try to weigh all factors to determine whether or not to approve your application. They have approved application that commander’s recommended disapproval, but they have also disapproved applications that had commander’s approval. The board can also give you a completely different separation date than you requested.
Let’s say you requested 1 year off your commitment. The board could say no to 1 year, but offer you 6 months early instead. IF this occurs, the member can either agree or disagree with the new separation date. If the member disagrees with it, the application is automatically disapproved and the member must reapply after 120 days.
From the author’s understanding, the board members change and therefore the perspectives change as to who, where, and why the approve/disapprove applications. Once again, this is the Air Force way, so the other military branches may be different in this process.
Finding a Unit in The Guard or Reserves
We have now gone over the details of a Palace Chase, but we haven’t quite discussed how you actually get into a guard or reserve unit.
If you are asking yourself this question, I would definitely start with your in-service recruiter. They can help you find jobs, contacts at units and help set up interviews. If you already have a unit in mind, the best thing is to visit that unit during a UTA weekend and start meeting everyone in the unit.
Getting hired by a unit is just like getting hired by a civilian job, in the sense that they are looking to hire people who are a good fit for their unit. It is a little “good old boy club” like, but keep in mind that they are assuming you are going to be in their unit for a long time. Therefore, they want to make sure you would be a good fit into their family. You want to make sure you want to be part of their family too.
With both the Palace Chase and Palace Front programs, you must be ready for anything because they still do consider the current operational needs of your military branch.
The Interview Process
Ultimately, you will have to officially interview for any job in the guard or reserve, and for most units you have to actually be invited to interview. The best way to get to an interview is by spending time at the unit during a UTA weekend, meeting other members, and ensuring the unit is both a good fit for you and them.
Afreserve.com and Goang.com list many jobs, which can be another way to start your search if you have a particular job in mind. There are several other methods to find jobs, but these are the best ways to at least get started.
The Air Force Pilot Shortage
Right now, the Air Force is dealing with a pilot shortage. As a result, they are taking a much more serious look at Palace Chase applications coming from pilots, especially fighter pilots.
If you are in a career field that is currently overmanned, you probably have a fair shot at getting Palace Chase approved. If you are in a critically manned career field, do not be surprised if you do not have any luck with getting your application approved.
With that being said, the Air Force as a whole does care about Total Force, so for instance, if you are a maintainer on F-16s and you want to go to a guard unit as an F-16 maintainer, the board may consider that they aren’t losing you in the Total Force.
Big picture wise, anything can happen with a Palace Chase application. If you are interested in transitioning to the guard or reserve and leaving active duty behind, it is worth your time to try and see if Palace Chase works out for you.
No matter what, remember that you have already served your country honorably and it is okay to make decisions now based on what is best for you and your family.
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