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Reserve leadership engages and inspires community, commends total force recruiters

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Bobby Pilch
  • 367th Recruiting Group, Air Force Reserve Command

Air Force Reserve Command senior leadership spent the weekend criss-crossing New England mid-July to connect with educational partners, encourage paths of service, and praise the tireless efforts of recruiters.

As recruiting efforts continue to focus on generating awareness of service and targeting all qualified demographics across the country, support and involvement from top leadership continues to be critical to success.

“I think it's really important to get out into the communities,” said Maj. Gen. Maureen G. Banavige, mobilization assistant to the Commander, AFRC, who spent the weekend of July 13 in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. “Especially, when we know that only 1% or 2% of people in America serve. It's essential to expand the aperture for people who may be interested in serving and to inform them of all the opportunities and to encourage service.”

Banavige, who began her passion for service to America as a cadet with the Civil Air Patrol, visited more than 20 cadets and leadership with the Concord, N.H., squadron. She shared her journey on becoming an Airman and inspiring the next generation of aviators.

“I was a CAP cadet from middle school until most of high school,” she said. “I loved being in the CAP and earned my private pilot's license before I graduated from high school. It was kind of interesting because I had to have my mom in the car with my learner's permit to drive me to a CAP meeting in order to get to the airport -- so I could fly solo in an aircraft.”

Banavige told the CAP audience about the reason behind donning the uniform.

“There's a reason why you're here,” she said. “Every one of you has some type of calling that made you want to do something a little bit different, a little bit more structured, a little bit more about a calling of your nation and getting to wear your nation’s uniform. I encourage you all to harness that in some way and if a uniformed service isn't in your future, do something in the community to be of service.”

Beyond the high school classroom, generating awareness of opportunities within the Reserve with minority-serving, post-secondary educational institutions is key to developing synergistic partnerships and casting the widest net to capture tomorrow’s talent.

The general also visited Franklin Cummings Technical College, a minority-serving institution located in downtown Boston.

“We're trying to eliminate any remaining diversity barriers, if they exist, to make sure we include as many amazing people that we possibly can from all specialties,” she said. “As Air Force Reserve Command celebrates and reflects on our 75 years as a service, we always want to improve our diversity, but also recruit from the best schools, and so Franklin Cummings Tech sounds like a good place for us to develop a relationship. We're going to have a much stronger military that’s more representative of our country.”

“Joining the Reserve does not necessarily require someone to wear the uniform,” said Sean P. Houlihan, AFRC deputy chief of public affairs, who joined Banavige on her visit to the college. “We have many highly regarded technical opportunities across the Reserve that we can help develop mentorships with area bases and subject matter experts.”

The success of these engagements ultimately culminates with individuals taking that first step toward serving or transitioning as a prior-service member and speaking with a recruiter.

One of those recruiters discussed how fulfilling he finds his job is.

“I love what I do,” said Master Sgt. Ronald Vizcarra, a transition assistance recruiter assigned to the 350th Recruiting Squadron at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. “I started my career as an active-duty member, so I like telling individuals my story on how I transitioned into the Reserve and how it helped me and benefitted my family. Additionally, I highlight to active-duty Airmen that they shouldn’t discount their five or ten years of hard work they’ve put into the Air Force and instead use that experience to continue their career in the Reserve.”

Banavige had the opportunity to personally meet with regional recruiters and acknowledge their contributions leading up to a scheduled NASCAR race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway Sunday morning. Unfortunately, the race was canceled due to inclement weather, but the rain didn’t get in the way of Banavige’s intent.

“It was just motivating to get to see all of our recruiters who are out there on the front lines trying to make sure we are recruiting great new Airmen,” she said. “I know they're facing a lot of hard challenges right now with all of the situations going on now in the country. So I know they have their work cut out for them, yet they're really crushing it.”

Although the weather may have dampened efforts to engage and promote serving in the world’s greatest Air Force at the track, it didn’t diminish the overall theme of the engagements.

“I think we are so blessed to be Americans,” Banavige said. “Every American should serve in some way, whether it's in their community as a government civilian, a first responder, or any uniform of some kind. We all should be inclined and encouraged to serve in some way and I'm just grateful that through this trip, I got to see lots of people who are motivated to serve in uniform and want to continue to do just that.”

To learn more about joining the Air Force, Reserve or Air National Guard, download the Aim High app to connect with a local recruiter.