Airmen from the Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Service give a cheer during an annual readiness training event. The command is looking to fill more recruiting positions. (Master Sgt. Shawn Jones/Air Force)
The Air Force Reserve Command needs volunteers for full-time recruiters.
The command has 340 recruiters to bring in anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 recruits each year, and must replace the 30 to 40 recruiters it loses to attrition annually.
Becoming a full-time recruiter for the reserves can bring some choice perks, Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Zwelling, command chief master sergeant for the Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Service, said in a Feb. 5 interview. Reserve recruiters receive the same benefits active-duty airmen receive, including full retirement if they serve as a recruiter for 20 years.
Active-duty airmen who become reserve recruiters can also receive full retirement if their active-duty time and reserve recruiting time adds up to 20 years.
And the job is incredibly rewarding, Zwelling said.
Recruiters have a chance to change people’s lives by helping them find a career, opportunities to go to school, and a direction in life.
“That’s the biggest perk of being a recruiter — the satisfaction from helping people,” Zwelling said.
But it’s not an easy way of life.
“It’s more than a full-time job,” Zwelling said. “Being a recruiter entails long hours, working on weekends, having to go pick people up at 4 o’clock in the morning to drive them up to the military entrance processing station, working at 7 o’clock in the evening.”
Recruiters often have to move around the country and usually serve three years in each assignment.
That’s why, early on in the application process to become a recruiter, flight chiefs interview not only the applicant, but also his or her spouse. Zwelling said the Air Force Reserve wants to make sure that a recruiter’s spouse knows what will likely come with such a change and is onboard.
For example, many reserve spouses have never had to undergo a permanent change-of-station move — let alone one every few years — and may not truly appreciate how it could affect their children.
“If the spouse doesn’t have buy-in, that recruiter’s not going to be successful, because they’re going to have outside stressors,” Zwelling said. “We want them to be happy on both sides of the coin. If they’re not happy at home, they’re not going to be happy at work.”
To become a recruiter, one must be at least a staff sergeant and have at least a year in the reserve.
Zwelling said that people often think that someone has to be gregarious and outgoing to be a good recruiter, but that’s not the case. In fact, Zwelling said, many of the best recruiters he has seen tend to be introverts.
A lot of what makes a good recruiter is good listening skills to identify which potential recruits will make good reservists, and which won’t.
“Sales is part of the job, but it’s not the be-all, end all,” Zwelling said. “You want to listen to their wants and their needs. People always come in [and] talk to a recruiter for a reason. It’s important that you try to marry up what the Air Force Reserve ... has to offer with what they’re looking for. They want to serve their country, they’re looking for school money, they’re looking for a particular skill, that’s an easy one. Now, if someone comes in and says, ‘Hey, I want a full-time job, and I want to see the world,’ a good Air Force Reserve recruiter is going to tell him, ‘You need to talk to the active-duty recruiter, because active duty’s going to offer you that full-time job.’ ”
One newly minted reserve recruiter, Staff Sgt. Matthew Quackenbush at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., said his recruiter helped shape his life when he joined in 2008. Quackenbush said that becoming a reservist at 21 helped him go to school and acquire the skills to be an air transportation specialist, which allowed him to help some of his family members and buy an engagement ring for his now-wife — opportunities that aren’t around for many young men like himself.
“I said, ‘I want to give other people this opportunity as well,’ ” Quackenbush said in a Feb. 5 interview.
Once Quackenbush had reached staff sergeant and finished airmen leadership school, he said the process for becoming a recruiter went pretty quickly. He attended a six-week recruiting school at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where he learned how to ask questions that elicit why someone wants to join the Air Force Reserve and how to direct them to the right job. He officially became a recruiter six months ago.
Quackenbush said that seeing new recruits’ attitudes change — from being reluctant to talk the first day they walk into a recruiting office, to being full of smiles and pride as their families watch them join — is rewarding.
“You can change their life in a really positive manner — if you figure out why they want to join,” Quackenbush said.■