Every Airman is an Air Force recruiter

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Andrew O'Neel
  • 361st Recruiting Squadron commander
I hope everyone enjoyed themselves as much as I did at the Air Expo last weekend! As the new commander of the 361st Recruiting Squadron, it was a great opportunity to see our recruiters in action. Did you see them? I saw hundreds of them. All you had to do to spot a recruiter was look in a mirror. 

Sure, our sharp and professional recruiters were out in force, supported by recruiting tools like the Air Force monster truck and the F-22 Raptor scale model, but when it comes down to it, the single greatest factor in convincing someone to join our Air Force was not the fascinating static displays, the impressive displays of air power or even our incredible Thunderbirds. It was you.

Whether you're an officer, enlisted, civilian, contractor or family member, from the first moment visitors drove through the gates, we were all on display. Everything we said and did the entire weekend contributed to the public's perception of who we are, and what we stand for. 

Whether you knew it or not, you were likely influencing someone's decision to join our team. You might not have even been speaking to them directly, but to their uncle, cousin or sister. How did you do? Did you leave the impression that you wanted to? 

I was standing in uniform near one of the F-22s when a couple came up to me and the man asked "What's that airplane?" OK, being an Airman I should know this. "Oh, that's the F-22A, our fifth-generation air dominance fighter," I said. Realizing that she now had her own Air Force tour guide, the woman then asked "So what's this one behind us?" And off we went. I didn't mind at all because it could have been the first time these folks had been on a base and spoken to an Airman, and I was proud to show us off.

My point is that we are ALL recruiters. Everything you do shapes the American public's perception of their Air Force and you can influence a person's decision to enlist -- or not.
Your appearance and conduct both on and off-duty reflect on the Air Force, and so do your attitude and the very words you use. Are you intimidated? Don't be.You don't need to be a walking air power encyclopedia -- just be yourself, sincere and genuine. And remember, you're the best recruiting tool we have.