COLUMBIA, S.C. --
In fiscal year 2020 – Tech. Sgt. Kyle Hauser’s first full year of being an Air Force Reserve recruiter – he met his yearly accession goal in less than four months. How did the personable Airman achieve such remarkable success? By applying what he learned throughout an already successful Air Force career.
Hauser, a line recruiter with the 351st Recruiting Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, began his Air Force career in 2006, when he was 19. Looking for a way to pay for college and gain some independence, he went to a recruiting office in his hometown of Peru, Illinois, where all four branches were represented.
“My plan was to speak with all of the recruiters and gather as much information as I could to make my decision,” Hauser said. “I had very limited knowledge of the military, but assumed I was going to join the Navy since my grandpa was in the Navy during World War II.”
Hauser spoke to recruiters from the Army, Navy and Marines before finally getting to the back of the office and talking to the Air Force recruiter.
“Our initial interview made me unsure,” he said. “The recruiter didn’t seem overly interested. We chatted briefly and he recommended I do more research and ended the session. As I walked back down the long hallway towards the exit, the Army and Marine recruiters I had chatted with were in the hallway giving me a second pitch as I tried to leave.”
The Air Force recruiter didn’t even take his phone number.
“As I thought about what had happened, my 19-year-old self determined it was like dating,” he said. “The attractive girl at school wasn’t chasing the guys. She was the one being chased. I immediately thought the Air Force is the attractive girl here.”
Hauser learned a lot about the soft sell that day. He didn’t know it at the time, but that lesson would pay off later when he was on the other side of the recruiting table.
He enlisted as an air transportation troop. During his time as a “port dawg,” he helped convince his little brother, cousin and brother-in-law to all join the Air Force. As his first contract was approaching the end, Hauser wanted to find a different challenge.
His old supervisor had been a recruiter and told him to give it a shot. He applied, and soon the young senior Airman was on his way to recruiting school.
“Recruiting for the active duty was awesome,” he said. “I immediately loved the competition and the autonomy it provided. I was an E-4 with my own office in a mall and my flight chief was more than an hour away. I also found the accountability refreshing. Your successes and failures were yours alone. You also had a large amount of creative control on how you wanted to meet your goals.”
After two successful years as an enlisted accessions recruiter, Hauser was selected to move into a line officer recruiting position and was later tapped to manage his squadron’s line officer accessions program.
Toward the end of his four-year recruiting tour, Hauser began missing the travel and camaraderie of working on base with his port dawg team. He opted to go back to his old career field.
“I tried everything to talk him out of it, but one thing about Kyle is his relentless determination,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Lear, his supervisor at the time. “I mean this in the best way, but once his mind is set on something, he stops at nothing to achieve it. In this case, he loved his last job and there was unfinished business that needed to be checked off.”
Stationed at Travis Air Force Base, California, Hauser said he enjoyed being back in the air transportation field, but he definitely missed the many challenges recruiting offered.
A chance meeting with an Air Force Reserve recruiter at the Travis shoppette led Hauser to become a recruiter in the Reserve.
“He had his blues on with his gold recruiting badge,” Hauser said. “I struck up a conversation and we chatted about recruiting. Then I kept running into him and it turned out he worked on the first floor of the building I worked in.”
Hauser initially put in a package and was approved to return to active duty as a recruiter, but the timing didn’t work out to make the switch.
With encouragement from the Reserve recruiter and his mentors, Hauser decided to make the move from active-duty port dawg to Reserve recruiter.
“I felt good about the process, and the time line worked out perfectly so I made the transition,” he said. “I am grateful it worked out and that I had the opportunity to recruit once again.”
He was able to attend an Air Force Recruiting Service five-day course for prior recruiters as a refresher and to learn some intricacies of the Reserve.
Stationed at Charleston, Hauser had a phenomenal first year.
“I attribute that to Team Charleston’s culture and high morale,” he said. “I knew I was on a winning team when I arrived by watching how the flight interacted as I found my place. I immediately felt welcomed and wanted to provide value. I finished the year at 174% of my goal – but had the support from my entire team to do it.”
Hauser said one of the first things he noticed about Reserve recruiting was the difference in the size of his recruiting zone. There were six active-duty recruiters in his area of responsibility. He reached back to his past experience of managing a large zone as a line officer recruiter on active duty.
“Line officer recruiters have large zones and tons of interest on active duty,” he said. “So I had to become familiar with how to work electronically and be as efficient as possible to maximize my reach.”
The experience of working electronically has proven helpful since virtual recruiting has become a way of life now for recruiters during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When the schools in South Carolina closed, my wife and I began schooling at home, like most Americans,” he said. “Since then, we have positioned ourselves to go completely virtual. Our recruiting leadership worked hard to get virtual enlistments approved, which was a big deal. That allowed us to get our new Airmen who had been waiting due to COVID-19 sworn in.”
Fortunately, Hauser reached his yearly goal several months before COVID-19 forced stay-at-home orders. For fiscal year 2020, which began on Oct. 1, 2020, he met his goal of 37 accessions on January 30.
“I know I was the first line recruiter to make goal,” Hauser said. “I am only in my second year of recruiting for the Air Force Reserve, but it is abnormal for a line recruiter to make goal as fast as I did. While I may have met my goal, my flight, squadron and command have not made goal, so I am still pushing hard to help accomplish the mission and meet our end-strength number.”
Hauser said he treats the first quarter of the fiscal year like a deployment, where he grinds it out with little to no distractions.
“Every October 1st, your year resets with a new goal,” he said. “For me, tackling that first quarter makes the rest of my year just feel better. I work long hours October through December – 12-hour days Monday through Friday and even some Saturdays – so I can be ahead and enjoy the holidays. This is not a mandatory recruiting thing but this is how I prefer to operate.”
While transitioning to the Reserve was initially a challenge for Hauser, making the move to working as a Total Force recruiter is a much easier task.
The Air Force is embarking on a Total Force recruiting enterprise approach to recruit the nation’s best talent. In addition to recruiting for the regular Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, Total Force recruiting also encompasses Air Force Academy admissions, Air Force civilian service and Air Force ROTC.
“I think the Total Force initiative is awesome,” Hauser said. “This may sound crazy but when I joined the Air Force, I had no idea there was an Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard. I just went to the nearest recruiting office.”
He said he has a great relationship with an active-duty recruiter in Columbia, and they are constantly funneling people to the right place based on the applicant’s needs.
Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Jones, Hauser’s flight chief, said there are usually pros and cons with getting a prior-service recruiter to join his team. This time, the pros far outweighed the cons.
“I found the advantages of having a prior-service Air Force recruiter on the team is that he already understood the general hustle mentality that is needed to be successful,” Jones said. “He had experience with explaining Air Force benefits and relating to applicants and families, and now he has the ability to be a dual threat with both active-duty and Air Force Reserve experience.
“The thing that makes him a great Airman and great recruiter is that he exhibits our Air Force core values. He engages with the team constantly to help make everyone better. He is a true force multiplier for our team.”