JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- Despite challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Air Force Recruiting Service had a successful fiscal 2020 making adjusted recruitment goals and achieving new milestones for the year.
The regular Air Force accessed 26,268 non-prior service enlisted Airmen, as well as 127 prior service, 660 line officers, 651 health professionals and 50 chaplains. The Air Force Reserve accessed 7,062 Airmen, exceeding their goal of 7,000, including enlisted, line officers, health professionals and chaplains. The Air National Guard assessed more than 9,200 enlisted Airmen and nearly 2,000 officers to finish the year ahead of their adjusted goal.
“Fighting through COVID in 2020 was no small feat and I could not be more proud of our recruiters,” said. Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, who took command of AFRS in June at the height of the pandemic. “They adjusted course quickly from in-person recruiting to virtual recruiting to get the mission accomplished.”
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper praised AFRS for quick action taken in the early days of the pandemic.
"What the U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service has done in response to COVID-19 by being ready to pivot, prioritize, and match applicants to an optimal job and enter-active-duty date on a weekly, and sometimes hourly, basis has been incredible," Esper said.
While original goals were a bit higher at the beginning of the fiscal year, a greater than expected retention rate along with a lowered training capacity at Basic Military Training and technical training schools due to COVID, led the Air Staff to adjust recruiting goals mid-summer.
“As an Air Force we had to reduce the training pipeline some to allow for social distancing, but the team at Basic Military Training did an incredible job of keeping recruits moving through the program and keeping them safe. They didn’t skip a beat,” said Thomas.
“When COVID shut down our Military Entrance Processing Stations, recruiters quickly became experts in in shifting and rapidly adjusting when and where we shipped recruits from to ensure a steady flow of Airmen into the hands of our Military Training Instructors,” Thomas said. Agile Shipping, as it became to be known, was used to overcome obstacles like travel restrictions, cancelled flights and social distancing guidelines due to the pandemic.
“Despite COVID, our recruiters did a phenomenal job of bringing the best and brightest into our ranks,” he said. “We even had a couple of monumental events to celebrate.”
The Air National Guard had what is believed to be a record-setting event when a Georgia recruiter, Tech. Sgt. Reza Whitehead, accessioned 14 new Air Guardsmen in one month.
The Air Force health professions recruiters closed out the year filling every health professions goaled program.
“We had 100 percent or more in every medical program we were recruiting in 2020,” said Col. Jason Scott, Recruiting Operations director. “This hasn’t been accomplished since at least 2000. Our dedicated recruiters and the support teams in the groups and squadrons all made that happen.”
As AFRS continues to move toward a Total Force enterprise approach, bringing in the nation’s best talent to serve in the appropriate capacity, other accession sources had a strong finish as well.
In addition to the three components, Total Force recruiting also encompasses Air Force Academy admissions, Air Force Civilian Talent Acquisition and Air Force ROTC. The Air Force Academy commissioned 976 officers earlier this year and AFROTC commissioned 1,967 officers. The Air Force Personnel Civilian Talent Acquisition team extended 3,472 job offers in fiscal 2020.
As fiscal 2021 approaches, AFRS continues to see strong recruiting numbers already in the delayed entry program.
“Our recruiters will continue to look for the best in our society and share the benefits of the Air Force with them,” Thomas said. “America’s security depends on it.”
For those interested in learning more about opportunities in the Air Force — full time, part time or as a civilian, go to airforce.com.