Air Force gatekeepers introduce recruits to new life

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kathleen D. Bryant
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
Civilians take the first step to becoming military professionals every day -- walking into a recruiter's office.

At the 336th Recruiting Squadron, anywhere from 10 to 20 hopefuls stroll into one of their 60 recruiting offices throughout Georgia, Florida and South Carolina on a daily basis looking to become a part of the world's greatest Air Force.

"As a recruiter, I've noticed we will make or break their aspirations of going into the Air Force," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cristina Garcia, 336th RCS Valdosta recruiter who believes the most rewarding part of her job is giving people the chance to live a better life. "If you have a low-quality recruiter, [prospects can] change their mind very quickly about wanting to join. That [affects] the whole Air Force."

Recruiters have a huge responsibility to leave a first impression of the entire Air Force with every potential recruit who treads into their office or who they meet in the community.

"I think this is the best job the Air Force has to offer," said Senior Master Sgt. Josephine Davis-Fogle, 336th RCS production superintendent. "To have a job where you can go out and touch people like this during community events, parades and high school events is great.

"We're in the high schools telling kids that there are opportunities for great futures and the Air Force is one of them," Davis-Fogle added. "Being able to spread that word and work with the civilian community makes this the greatest job."

The recruiters not only work with the applicants throughout the process of transitioning into the Air Force, but they also work with the families of the recruits.

"Recruiting is important because we are the first people civilians and their family members see as far as representing the Air Force," said Garcia. "We show the family where their son or their daughter is about to go. When [parents] see what the recruiter is doing for their child, it has a big impact.

"We help the family transition through the process, because it's not just the kids going into the Air Force," Garcia added. "Their families are experiencing a huge change in their lives as well. It's an all-around affect when it comes to processing an applicant. It doesn't just touch one person, it touches all of them."

In a lot of cases, parents experience proud moments of their sons and daughters, especially when they watch them graduate Basic Military Training.

"When [the applicants] come back from BMT, they are 100 percent different," said Garcia, who recalls being thanked recently by a new Airman's father. "[He sent] me a picture of him and his daughter after graduation."

Bringing applicants into the Air Force and helping them walk the path of an Airman is a recruiter's ultimate goal. The 336th RCS and their 61 recruiters meet that goal every year by recruiting over 1,700 Airmen each year.

"We recruit the most qualified individuals based on what the Air Force needs at the time," said Garcia. "It can be a long process and a lot of applicants can get discouraged when things start to set them back, whether it is medical waivers or financial waivers. The biggest thing is to not get discouraged and to be patient."

After meeting initial requirements, applicants are scheduled for a physical and begin studying for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. Here in Valdosta, to complete the ASVAB and physical, applicants must travel to the closest Military Entrance Processing Station in Jacksonville, Fla.

As they wait to ship out to BMT, recruits are enrolled in the Delayed Entry Program where they attend monthly DEP calls and participate in activities with fellow DEP members.

"We keep them motivated and inspired [by having] someone, like a retiree or a prior Military Training Instructor, come in to speak to them," said Garcia. "Sometimes we might do an event such as bowling. We also make sure that there have been no changes in their qualifications."

As their DEP time comes to an end, the once-civilian hopefuls are on their way to become military professionals. The process starts with Air Force recruiters sending them on a journey to the gateway of the Air Force.