CHEYENNE, Wyo. – When you think of recruiters, a few images come to mind. Top on the list is an image of a staff sergeant or technical sergeant visiting a school during lunch or an assembly and presenting a slideshow of fun looking jobs. You may also recall recruiters handing out tri-folds during fairs or parades.
“This generation of young adults aren’t as likely to be found attending large gatherings like fairs and parades. Additionally, they are not as motivated to approach a military recruiter in a school setting such as a lunchroom visit,” said Master Sgt. Nathan Burrows, 153rd Airlift Wing recruiting and retention superintendent. “Our recruiters’ job is to communicate exactly what the Air Guard is, let them know it’s a place you can earn college tuition assistance, receive cutting-edge career training that can be used in the civilian workforce and have the satisfaction of serving your local community, state, and nation.”
Production recruiter Tech. Sgt. Brandon Rodriguez decided to look beyond conventional recruiting strategies and pursue an innovative idea which stemmed from a conversation he had with Capt. Sheila Sells with the 153rd Force Support Squadron. During their discussion, Rodriguez and Sells crafted a plan to incorporate a largely untapped, and overlooked, market of junior and senior high students who are homeschooled. Sells is familiar with this market as she has homeschooled her own children.
Rodriguez created a center of influence event in which he fed students and their parents lunch while presenting the career and educational benefits of joining the Wyoming Air National Guard. Additionally, Rodriguez coordinated with 153rd personnel from a variety of occupations to give students a first-hand experience of the jobs and skills available to them upon enlisting.
“I wished opportunities like this would happen more frequently,” said Wendy Stevenson, mother of home school student Alayna Stevenson.
Rodriguez generated five solid leads from the 13 students who attended the homeschooling event. Of those five leads, Alayna Stevenson enlisted April 4, 2017 as a services specialist.
“I’m excited about joining the Air Guard,” said Stevenson. “Before this [homeschool event] I hadn’t thought about the military at all. I didn’t even know anything about it.”
Rodriguez contuse to work various avenues regarding innovation and the finding and enlisting of airmen into the Wyoming Air National Guard. While he worked the homeschooling event, production recruiter Tech. Sgt. Ken Anderson was working with Thomas Swenson, who works for Farmers Insurance, to find possible enlistees during a “Suits for Troops” event, which helps transition newly separated active duty members into the civilian world.
“I was searching for a venue for highly qualified candidates to join the Air Guard when I met Mr. Swenson and began volunteering with the Suits for Troops event,” said Anderson. “It was gratifying to be able to assist newly separated active duty military members with continuing their military service in the guard.”
Anderson generated eight solid leads from the event and networked with 1st Sgt. Jonathan P. Garand to locate more qualified candidates with the realignment of the Colorado Army Reserve unit, the 7450th Medical Backfill Battalion. An additional 40 leads were generated from that event, of which five are in process of joining the 153rd Airlift Wing.
Not satisfied with only focusing on the prior-service audience for recruiting efforts, Anderson began a quest to look for non-prior service recruits. He began looking for places in which millennials frequent and ultimately developed a recruiting plan to engage possible candidates during Cheyenne’s Comic Con in May. To ensure the Air Guard fit in at the event, Anderson worked with the public affairs office to create a theme that asks the question, “What does your future hold?” He also enlisted the help of Chief Master Sgt. Jeremy Nash with the 153rd Medical Group, to create some zombies and Senior Master Sgt. Jeff Collins, with the 153rd Small Air Terminal, to decorate the recruiting table for Comic Con.
“Today’s youth are much more technologically savvy. They are well spoken, naturally adapted critical thinkers, and most of all they are socially aware. This makes them excellent candidates for military service,” said Burrows. “We must meet them where they are and, in order to do that, we must be prepared for a paradigm shift.”