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Physical and computer access: Common Access Card

One of the first actions you will need to take after onboarding is to acquire a Common Access Card (CAC). This is a “smart” card about the size of a credit card, and is the standard identification for active duty uniformed service personnel, Selected Reserve, DoD civilian employees, and eligible contractor personnel. The CAC is the principal card to enable physical access to buildings and controlled spaces as well as providing access to DoD computer networks and systems. The sooner you are able to get your CAC, the sooner you will be able to gain unescorted access to your worksite and to your computer, work email, and computer networks. Information will be provided to you during pre-employment and upon onboarding on where to go and what documents are needed to obtain your CAC. Your CAC is a government controlled ID that must be safeguarded at all times. Once you have your CAC, you will need to handle it with care because you will be using it often. When you receive your CAC via your installation Military Personnel Flight, you should also receive a “Proud to be an Air Force Civilian” lanyard or clip where you can store your CAC when you are not using it for your computer.



After your appointment paperwork (Notification of Personnel Action (NPA), also referred to as “SF50”), is finalized and posted (generally by your second or third day on the job), you must visit a Real-Time Automated Personnel Identification System (RAPIDS) site for issuance of your CAC. Although some offices may have walk-in times available, your unit sponsor or Civilian Personnel onboarding point of contact should make an appointment in advance to avoid long wait times. If your CAC is lost, not working or close to expiring, you can make appointments via RAPIDS to ensure you experience shorter wait times. When you go to the RAPIDS site, you must bring the following items:

  • Two forms of ID in original form.
    Both of the IDs must bear a photo and be unexpired (for example, a passport or driver’s license). View the entire list of acceptable documents.
  • You will be required to select a six (6) to eight (8) digit number to use as a Personal Identification Number (PIN).
    Your PIN should not use a number derived from something easily known about you, such as part of your Social Security Number (SSN), birthday, anniversary date, telephone number, or address.


Your CAC will offer a variety of functions depending on your component/command. While each component/command can tailor the functions of the card to meet its specific needs, the CAC is for identification and authentication.


You will need your PIN to access information stored on a CAC. To protect the information on your CAC, you should never tell anyone your PIN or write it down where it can be easily found. Your PIN should be kept secure at all times, just like your SSN. If you enter the incorrect PIN three times consecutively, the card is designed to lock you out so you cannot access your information. You will need to go to the RAPIDS site to reset your PIN.


You can safely keep your CAC in a wallet or purse. You cannot, however, amend, modify, or overprint your CAC. No stickers or other adhesive materials are to be placed on either side of an ID card. You can also photocopy a CAC without damaging it, but any person willfully altering, damaging, lending, counterfeiting, or using these cards in any unauthorized manner is subject to a fine, imprisonment, or both. Storing your CAC in the badge holder provided to you when you receive the CAC is an ideal place to keep it safe when not in use. You should keep your CAC on you at all times when away from your desk or work environment.


If you lose your card, you shall be required to present documentation from the local security office or CAC sponsor confirming the CAC has been reported lost or stolen. This documentation must be scanned and stored in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). You will need to go to the RAPIDS site to get another CAC.


If you forget your PIN, go to the nearest issuance site, where you will be given the opportunity to prove that you are the owner of the CAC by matching your fingerprint against the fingerprint that was stored on DEERS when you were issued the card. If your fingerprint matches successfully, you can select a new PIN. Currently, there is no capability to reset your PIN remotely.

customer Francis Baylor, National Air and Space Intelligence Center employee, receiving lanyard for his CAC: “My dream has always been to work for the Air Force.”


If your CAC expires and you are eligible for a new CAC, you should make an appointment and go to the nearest RAPIDS site and obtain your new CAC. For your convenience, CACs can be brought in for renewal up to 30 days in advance of the expiration date.


All ID cards are property of the U.S. Government. Upon separation or loss of affiliation with DoD, the individual must return their ID card. To prevent any unauthorized use, ID cards that are expired, invalidated, stolen, lost, or otherwise suspected of potential or actual unauthorized use shall be revoked in DEERS, and the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificates on the CACs will be immediately revoked. For more information about CAC, please refer to


this information has been provided and approved by the AFMC Cyber Security Liaison Office.


Brian Nall of Hill AFB receiving CAC and lanyard. “I am thrilled to be part of the Hill AFB team.”


Amanda Hererra of Hill AFB. “I am so excited to start my new job!”


Douglas Hanson of Hill AFB. “I am so excited to start my Air Force Career and glad to be part of the team!”