Three things I've learned about Air Force recruiting

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- What is the most important job in the Air Force? Communications? Pilot? Maintenance? The answer is ... yes.

All of them are the most important, and so is your job. I am a prior-enlisted officer who works at the 337th Recruiting Squadron headquarters at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, and this is my Air Force recruiting story.

In 15 years, I've been a maintainer, a medic, a communications troop, and a recruiter. I tell you this to illustrate my scope of experience in our Air Force -- the prism through which I view what I've learned about Air Force recruiting in the last 15 months.

Namely, that the recruiting corps takes care of its Airmen, recruiters possess an immense enthusiasm for their work, and that I have gained some perspective on the phrase, "held to a higher standard."

First, the Air Force Recruiting Service takes care of its Airmen. The conventional idea of taking care of Airmen is to help them develop personally and professionally as well as recognize their accomplishments.

Recruiters compete with their peers in various areas of mission accomplishment, providing frequent opportunities to recognize superior performance.

A training section in every squadron led by an experienced recruiter is charged with providing monthly, quarterly, annual, and unscheduled training to every recruiter. Off-duty education and other personal development opportunities are highly encouraged.

This squadron also very critically assesses each Airman's fitness for decoration. So whether they receive a medal or not, they earn what they get -- recruiting service takes care of its Airmen. And its Airmen are pumped up about doing the job.

This brings me to my second message: recruiters have an incredibly high level of enthusiasm. Whether junior enlisted or brigadier general, they are excited to do their job. More impressively, they sustain that enthusiasm over the years.

Recruiters experience stress in the forms of peer competition and finding the right people for the right jobs. Irregular work hours and appointments which often involve travel hours away from home cause even more stress. Additionally, their families are likely located hours from an Air Force base and the services provided.

The Air Force is taking great strides to alleviate these stressors by increasing the number of recruiters in each office and minimizing travel. But despite all the stress, the standards of conduct remain high.

The third thing I've learned is that being held to a higher standard can be misleading.

How many times has the Air Force told me I am held to a higher standard? As a young enlisted man, I was held to a higher standard than civilians; as an NCO -- higher standard; as an officer -- higher standard; as a recruiter -- you guessed it.

Surely I'm near the top of the scale of standards held in the world by now, yet I am no higher on the scale than I was as a junior enlisted member. Airmen are held to a higher standard of conduct than non-Airmen, but a standard that is level across the Air Force.

The difference lies in the level of scrutiny to which a recruiter is held. A military recruiter is held to a higher level of scrutiny than an aircraft maintainer, but not a higher standard -- people simply watch recruiters more closely. To say one person is held to a higher standard requires someone else to be held to a lower standard. That simply is not the case in my Air Force. 

Is recruiting the most important job in the Air Force? Absolutely.

In a year or so I will claim that cyber is the most important job in the Air Force. Both statements will be absolutely true. These are one Airman's opinions about the world of Air Force recruiting. They're based on limited exposure to the career field but tempered by 15 years of Air Force experience. The bottom line is that I am excited about what the future holds for the Air Force and about positively impacting that future by seeking out and recruiting the best and brightest young men and women this country has to offer.